Pampas XV win Vodacom Cup!
Duane Heath
May 13, 2011
Argentina’s Pampas XV made history when they beat all South African comers in an unbeaten 11-match Vodacom Cup sequence that culminated in a 14-9 (halftime 8-0) win over the Blue Bulls in the final at Olën Park in Potchefstroom on Friday night.

It was just reward for the visitors at what has been their adopted home ground for the past three months or so. The Pampas XV won all eight round-robin matches playing some delightful rugby, then showed that they have the mental strength to win three crunch playoff matches in a row to claim the title.

The Pampas XV play a wonderful attacking game, but against the Bulls they proved that they could win ugly as well, and there must be no underestimating what this victory will mean not only to the personal World Cup ambitions of some of their best players, but also to the development of rugby in Argentina as a whole.

Players such as hooker Agustin Creevy, flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and wings Agustin Gosio (who played centre in the final after a injuries decimated the squad) and Juan Imhoff will long be remembered in these parts, and don’t be surprised if their names pop up on the Pumas’ team sheet during the World Cup this year.

It was certainly a typical final, with both teams adopting a more conservative, safety-first tactical approach to matters on a cold and clear highveld night.

The soft conditions underfoot certainly didn’t help expansive rugby either, with the Pampas XV in particular eschewing a territorial game in favour of running the ball from inside their own half with regularity.

But their handling let them down at critical stages, otherwise the men from Argentina might have been out of range at halftime, such was their dominance against uncharacteristically nervous opponents.

But finals have a knack of forcing both teams into errors, and for every knock-on and forward pass (and there were quite a few) the Pampas XV produced in promising positions, the Blue Bulls managed to lose ball which they desperately needed in order to grab a foothold in the game.

As expected, the Pampas XV scrum was totally dominant, as was shown in the 37th minute when the Bulls were shoved back over their own line from a five-metre scrum, which skipper Gerrit-Jan van Velze had to hastily dot down.

The Pampas XV opened the scoring in the 12th minute thanks to a penalty from flyhalf Sanchez, but it was their try in the 26th minute that showed just why this team, made up of the Pumas’ best Argentina-based players, had racked up a 10-match unbeaten run in this year’s competition.

From a position close to the Bulls’ line, scrumhalf Martin Landajo passed out to Sanchez before regathering and throwing a basketball-type pass to wing-turned-centre Gosio, who used his great pace to storm in for the first try.

Sanchez’s conversion attempt hit the posts but he made no mistake with a 43rd-minute penalty to make it 11-0.

The Bulls, although under the cosh in the scrums, were much better in the lineouts, and it was from this platform that they began to claw their way back into the game.

Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff finally got his team on the board with half an hour remaining with a penalty, and the Pampas XV were then dealt a blow shortly afterwards when referee Stuart Berry was forced to introduce uncontested scrums after the Bulls appeared to run out of front-row replacements following an early injury to loosehead Morne Mellett.

Replacement flyhalf Santiago Iglesias meanwhile continued to keep the scoreboard operator mildly busy in this tight affair, kicking a third penalty for the Pampas XV after 57 minutes that opened up an 11-point lead as the match headed toward its endgame.

The Bulls had to hit back quickly and they did, albeit not of the seven-point variety, as Boshoff slotted a second penalty in the 63rd minute to narrow the deficit to eight points.

Play thereafter became increasingly scrappy and frantic, with the Pampas XV clearly hanging on for the win and the resurgent Bulls trying, to no avail, to pierce their opponents’ watertight defence with attacks that were too predictable, lateral, and lacking in any pace or incision.

The Pampas XV meanwhile had numerous chances to kill off the game, Iglesias hitting the posts with a penalty and hacking a drop goal attempt in the 71st and 73rd minutes respectively.

The Bulls were awarded a penalty with three minutes left and Boshoff nailed it, leaving the game poised at 14-9 with two minutes to go. But again it was a case of desperate Pampas players tackling their hearts out against equally desperate defending champions trying to hold onto their crown.

But it was not to be, and for the first time in the competition’s 14-year history an unfamiliar name will be etched onto the trophy.


Pampas XV 14 – Try: Blue Bulls 9: – Penalties: Marnitz Boshoff (3).

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