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Ockert De Villiers
18 Aug 2012 19:02
South African Frans Steyn fights for the ball with Argentina's Nicolas Vergallo, during a Rugby Championship game in Cape Town, South Africa. (Schalk van Zuydam, AP)
South Africa fought their way to a 27-6 victory over a spirited Argentina side in their opening match of the four-nation Rugby Championship at Newlands on Saturday.
It was the Boks' 14th consecutive triumph over the South American tourists, but the Pumas put up strong resistance against their more revered opponents.
The hosts scored 20-points in the first half but could not land a proper knock-out blow as they let a bonus point, with home-ground advantage, fade away.
The South Africans nevertheless played a safe tactical game as they chipped away at Argentina's defences with good tactical kicking spearheaded by scrumhalf Francois Hougaard.
While the scoreline may suggest the Boks had a free pass to the tryline, it was anything but a walkover.
The Argentines threw down the gauntlet but they squandered chances as the Boks opened up an early gap.
The home side drew first blood with a penalty conversion by flyhalf Morne Steyn four minutes into the match.
His counterpart, Juan Martin Hernandez, returned the favour 10 minutes later to uphold the status quo.
The Springboks finally pierced the Pumas' defence with fullback Zane Kirchner crossing the whitewash after 17 minutes.
Hougaard took a quick tap from a scrum penalty, passing the ball to Steyn, who drew some defenders and offloaded to Kirchner to score.
With the Boks comfortably holding onto a 10-point lead, captain Jean de Villiers opted for a line-kick rather than a penalty conversion.
This signalled South Afica's intention to land a psychological blow as the half-time break approached.
The bold decision proved to be fruitful as flanker Marcel Coetzee scored his maiden try in a Bok jersey from the back of a driving maul from the lineout, with Steyn converting.
The Pumas added three more points before the recess with Hernandez succeeding from a penalty conversion.
The tourists, however, let three good chances slip away with three unsuccessful penalty conversion attempts.
The Boks struck their final blow in the 56th minute when Bryan Habana did well to chase and field a Steyn cross-kick to score in the right-hand corner, with the flyhalf converting.
Steyn's performance was almost a vindication for his form in the June Test series against England. He succeeded with all of his kicks at goal, while his tactical kicking was also on target.
Scorers: South Africa: 27 (20): Tries: Zane Kirchner, Marcel Coetzee, Bryan Habana.
Conversions: Morne Steyn (3).
Argentina 6 (6): Penalties: Juan Martin Hernandez (2). – Sapa
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