The Springboks proved they are on track with their Rugby World Cup preparations as they delivered a strong second-half performance to overpower Argentina 24-13 in the first of three warm-up games at Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s men were 10-3 behind on the scoreboard at halftime, but could draw inspiration from the opportunities they created (without converting them into points) before they found their rhythm, which saw Makazole Mapimpi and Canan Moodie score tries in the second stanza.
The result was particularly encouraging given that Nienaber made 13 changes to the starting team that faced the Pumas in Johannesburg seven days ago.
“This is an exceptional place to get a win,” said Nienaber.
“Argentina have been progressing well. They beat Australia and, last year, they defeated New Zealand, so we worked really hard to get our game in order and grind out the win, and we are pleased with the result.”
Springbok captain and hooker Bongi Mbonambi praised his charges for their fighting spirit and the way they put up their hands with an eye on the announcement of the Rugby World Cup squad on Tuesday.
“The one thing the coaches made sure of was to give as many players as possible a chance to play,” he said.
“The guys showed today they are ready to build to the Rugby World Cup. There’s no doubt the players have made it tough for the coaches (in terms of squad selection).
“We tried a lot of things in the first half and the outcomes didn’t go our way, but we knew if we kept pressing and believing, it would come in the second half. And that certainly paid off.
“We spoke about backing one another all week, and the players certainly did that.”
With Nienaber’s next major task to prepare for the World Cup squad announcement, he admitted the selectors had difficult decisions to make.
“We have a tough team selection meeting coming up,” said Nienaber. “The players certainly put up their hands today. We gave 38 players a run in the last few weeks, and with the team set to play knock-out rugby from our opening game of the World Cup, it has set us in good stead.”
The Springboks departed Argentina in the early hours of Sunday morning and will arrive in South Africa on Monday.