On a golden afternoon in the city of Salta, the Pumas managed to remove the thorn from their paw and beat the mighty Springboks at home for the first time ever.
Last week they were only eight minutes away from victory and the squad vowed not to make the same mistakes.
The Pumas began the game with the right attitude, trying to overpower their opponents from the first second, but after an arm wrestle of 20 minutes Herrara (3) was yellow carded and Jantjies kicked the goal for South Africa to lead 3-0.
However Argentina deserved all the possession and territory advantage they were getting and Sanchez (10) evened up the score soon after. Then came a brilliant Pumas’ move but Orlando (13) stumbled into touch near the corner post in the 27th minute.
Sanchez kicked another 3-pointer, and from the restart Matera (6) launched a raid which included a chip and chase by Sanchez, the ball moving to the other side, and finally a killer inside pass by big bopper Montero (11) for Tuculet (15) to score with nine minutes left.
The South Africans looked tired as the Argentines had ruled the pace of the game in the half, and their back row was dominant.
Half-time score: Argentina 13 – South Africa 3.
Francois Louw – gave a brilliant behind-the-back pass for Habana to score
The Springboks looked sharp after the break, and the pressure allowed Jantjies to slot a penalty. Then in a magnificent movement, including a chip from De Allende (12), the ball when wide to Louw (6) who passed around his back into the hands of Habana (11) to score a try worthy of the two-times World Champion team.
This was Habana’s 20th Rugby Championship try and the 65th of his career, which was a Tier-One Test record surpassing the tally of Wallaby legend David Campese.
Six minutes after the break the Springboks had tied the score 13-13.
After that South African burst, there was murmuring from the crowd at the Padre Ernesto Martearena Stadium—had the ghosts of Nelspruit come to haunt them again?
Juan Manuel Leguizamon – took a similar high ball to score
But the Pumas reacted and Juan Martin Hernandez (12), the magician, showed all his world class—first with a run to get in a promising position, then with a perfect kick wide to Leguizamon (7) who gathered the ball high and dotted down in-goal, cuddled by Habana. Hernandez took over the kicking duties due to the condition of Sanchez, and “El Mago” drilled the ball between the posts from out wide to convert.
In eight minutes, 17 points had been scored in the half. The game was opening up. Argentina 20-13.
Hernandez kicked a penalty after Landajo (9) and Isa (8) took the ball up, but eventually the strong bench of the Springboks made its mark. A penalty kick by reserve flyhalf Steyn and a brutish try to reserve PS du Toit brought the score to Argentina 23 – South Africa 21, with 13 minutes left.
When Steyn missed the conversion, kickable by his standards, he made up for it with a penalty for the Boks to take the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game, 24-23.
There were seven minutes remaining and it looked like the Springboks would get another agonising victory from Argentina’s land.
But the Springboks infringed 36 metres out and with goal-kickers Sanchez and Hernandez injured, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias (22) stepped up and unleashed the penalty goal – and the joy of all the crowd in the stadium.
Final score: Argentina 26 – South Africa 24.
Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias (RWC 2015) – set up and kicked winning penalty goal
The win is a big step for Argentine rugby which seeks a secure a foothold in top level rugby in their fifth year of the Rugby Championship.
The Pumas were dominant in the first half; their mental attitude was admirable, and better than when the Springboks finished over the top of them at Nelspruit. Like last week the Bok reserves had an edge but Argentina did not get rattled this time.
The not-so-good news for Argentina was that Hernandez had a skull trauma with loss of consciousness and a shear ear wound, while Sanchez was also dazed and had wounds to his lower lip.
French referee, Jerome Garces, was too permissive in this violent game and there were too many off-the-ball incidents also. SANZAAR should sanction the French referee, the several high shots of South African player, Teboho Mohoje (7), and some other unsavoury acts.
In a good position, and the score 24-23 to the Boks in the 76th minute, Morne Steyn attempted a field goal so that Argentina would have to score a try to win. It missed.
Replacement back Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias tapped a drop-kick for the 22 restart and ran with the ball. He passed it to winger Cordero and, trying to back up, got held back by Jaco Kriel. But it didn’t matter because the Springboks were penalised a few seconds later for something else and Iglesias was able to slot the winning goal.
Los Pumas celebrate
Man of the match
Juan Martin Hernandez turned back the clock and was again the player who knew how to win the admiration of the world as one of the best players on the planet.
He showed all his class today in key moments despite his 34 years, and despite being targetted by the physical South Africans.
Tries: Joaquin Tuculet (31′) and Juan Leguizamon (48′)
Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez 1/1, Juan Martin Hernandez 1/1
Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez 2/2, Juan Martin Hernandez 1/1 and Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias 1/1
South Africa: 24
Tries: Bryan Habana (45′) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (68′)
Conversions: Johan Goosen 1/1, Morné Steyn 0/1
Penalties: Elton Jantjies 2/4, Johan Goosen 2/3