Conceding 11 penalty corners in their first outing, the South Africans were always on the back foot in their match on Sunday, against a determined-looking Argentine side hoping to improve on their third-place finish in Beijing four years ago.
Luciana Aymar opened the scoring from Argentina's third corner of the match, before Josefina Sruoga doubled the South Americans' lead in the 20th minute, also from a penalty corner.
The South Africans worked to get themselves back into the game, with Dirkie Chamberlain pulling a goal back 12 minutes from half-time, after receiving a pinpoint cross from Jennifer Wilson.
Wilson picked up a pass from SA's defence after goalkeeper Mariette Rix made a save from an Argentina corner and hit back on the counterattack with an impressive turn of speed from deep in their own half.
Chamberlain's celebrations were short-lived, however, as Argentina restored their two-goal cushion through Martina Cavallero, who slotted home after she intercepted a defensive clearance and scored from close range.
Aymar doubled her tally in the 29th minute as she scored a second penalty corner past Rix, to hand Argentina a 4-1 lead as the South Africans struggled to keep up with the pace and tempo of their first clash.
Carla Rebbechi sealed a dominant first half for Argentina as she drilled a shot past Rix five minutes from the break, leaving SA with a mountain to climb in the second period.
The teams seemed content to keep the play between the areas in the second half as SA played catch-up to a rampant Argentine outfit while the leaders maintained their devastating momentum.
The South Africans won their first penalty corner of the match in the 59th minute, but striker Pietie Coetzee's effort was well saved by Argentine shot-stopper Laura del Colle.
Argentina replied with a corner of their own 30 seconds later – their 10th of the game – which was converted by Noel Barrionuevo.
The SA defence was tested throughout and Argentina kept up the pressure, which turned into yet another PC three minutes from time, with Silvina D'elia adding her name to the scoresheet to wrap up a miserable start for South Africa. – Sapa