Argentina beats South Africa 37-25 for 1st win over Boks
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Argentina beat South Africa for the first time in a test on Saturday, pushing the Springboks’ World Cup plans toward turmoil with a 37-25 victory in the final round of the Rugby Championship.
Argentina scored four tries at Kings Park, three in the first half, and led the two-time world champion 34-13 when wing Juan Imhoff completed his hat trick early in the second half, stunning a crowd that included reunited members of the 1965 Pumas, the first Argentina team to visit the republic.
The incumbent Pumas celebrated the first win over the Boks in 20 tests since 1993.
“It’s a great victory, maybe the most important one (ever for Argentina),” Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said.
Meanwhile, No. 2-ranked South Africa dwelt on one of its worst performances in recent memory. It heads to rugby’s showpiece having lost four straight tests for the first time since 2010.
“It is definitely a wake-up call for many of the players,” South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said. “You need wake up calls in life, but not at home.”
Center Marcelo Bosch scored Argentina’s other try, the opening score just two minutes in, and the Springboks were second-best throughout.
It left them last in the Rugby Championship, the first time since the introduction of the South Americans in 2012 that the bottom team has not been Argentina.
Argentina was outstanding, and carved South Africa open in the second minute, with flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez and Imhoff combining in a set move off a lineout, and Imhoff sending center Bosch clear to score. Argentina was bossing South Africa’s scrum, too, winning feeds against the head and penalties as they put the Springboks front row — and the whole team — under pressure.
“For us, it’s a very important weapon,” Argentina captain and hooker Agustin Creevy said. “We are conscious that we have a very good scrum.”
The Argentina backs were also causing huge problems, with scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli skipping through a couple of missed tackles to set up Imhoff for his first try in the 23rd. The Springboks were pulled together for a stern team talk by returning captain Jean de Villiers midway through the half. It didn’t work.
Imhoff scored his second off a simple blindside move from a scrum in the 31st to take Argentina out to 21-6.
“It certainly is a low point,” De Villiers said. “The fact is that all of us were down and sort of lethargic. ... We need to find the reason for that, and we need to find the reason quickly.”
Lock Lood de Jager responded briefly for South Africa late in the first half, reaching out to score the Boks’ first try after being driven to the line by his fellow forwards. That set off fireworks at Kings Park, but Argentina was the team doing all the celebrating.
In a game full of mistakes from South Africa, the home team gave away a penalty straight from the kickoff after that try and Hernandez nailed it for a 27-13 halftime lead.
Imhoff’s hat-trick try three minutes into the second half was contentious. With play stopped for an Argentina penalty, and medics on the field, Argentina took a quick tap and Imhoff was completely free on the left wing to stretch the lead to 21 points.
Fullback Willie le Roux again suggested a Springboks comeback when he motored down the right touchline for South Africa’s second try in the 49th. But Argentina weathered the Springboks’ surge easily, with Bosch capping the Pumas’ historic win with a dropped goal in the 63rd.
Even with 17 minutes still to play, South Africa could come up with only a last-minute try from Bryan Habana.
Argentina’s players celebrated at the end by going over to the section of the stadium where members of the ’65 team sat. The old Pumas waved blue and white scarves, and then came down onto the field to join the current squad.
“It was very emotional for us,” coach Hourcade said. “They started the history of the Pumas. ... They were crying when they went onto the field with us.”
Argentina and South Africa meet again next weekend, in Argentina this time in a World Cup warmup game where the Pumas might now start as favorites.
“We’ve learned in every game we played against Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa,” Creevy said.