Dramatic comeback gives Boks victory
Brenden Nel
August 20, 2016

The Springboks may be used to Lazarus-like performances at Mbombela Stadium, and on Saturday they produced another as they scored 17 points in the last nine minutes to storm back from 10 points down and beat Argentina 30-23 in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship match.

Just as they had done against Wales two years ago, and less dramatically against Scotland in 2012 at the same venue, the Boks produced a scintillating performance in those final moments to come from behind and clinch a game in the Lowveld that they could have lost.

Down 23-13 with nine minutes left on the clock, Faf de Klerk sparked a comeback of note with a beautiful scissors move for Johan Goosen to score before Warren Whiteley sealed the win in the 79th minute with a try that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

If the preceding 71 minutes were cause for self-doubt and despair, then the last nine were sensational champagne rugby that the Boks were expected to play and luckily just enough to get them over the line when it mattered most.

And while the Boks will celebrate the victory on the back of the amazing comeback, they will know it will be ten times more difficult when they travel across to face Argentina in Salta next weekend with a hostile crowd awaiting them.

The Boks started off strongly and then gave Los Pumas an easy road back into the game with some poor errors and individual mistakes that cost them dearly.

In the end though the Boks stopped a three-game losing streak in the tournament and stopped Argentina from claiming their second win ever against them after their shock victory in Durban last year.

But one thing is certain - the days of the Argentinean side being an easy beat are certainly gone, and the World Cup semifinalists are a difficult team to play, and exude so much more passion when they play in Super Rugby.

As the Boks pointed out this week, it is a different monster that took the field in Nelspruit, and it showed.

The Puma side has quick hands and are no longer just a forward pack. Nicolas Sanchez, on his performance on the day, will rate as one of the best 10s in the world and any international team would love to have a player like Facundo Isa, who was outstanding in the match.

And they are a clever side as well. If they can shake their disciplinary problems as they did on Saturday, they can rattle teams with both physicality and speed.

This Argentinean team is one of the best in the world and it is time South Africans give them credit for it.

While there wasn’t the significant improvement that coach Allister Coetzee had hoped for after the Irish test matches, and the Argentineans need to get so much credit for a game they could have, and possibly should have won, it is difficult not to look back at this game and consider how many of the Bok errors cost the Boks momentum on attack.

While there was improvements on some fronts, the kicking game was atrocious, and the decision-making at times was poor – with Elton Jantjies and Johan Goosen not having anything near their best games on the night and scramble defence saved the Boks on so many occasions.

On several occasions both Jantjies and Goosen tended to panic under the pressure, and will need to find that calmness and direction to get their team out of trouble when it is needed if they are to have long careers at this level.

Coetzee’s Bok team is a work in progress and needs time to grow, but an over-emphasis on running the ball from everywhere isn’t helping the team right now, and the balance and territory Coetzee loves to talk about so much needs to be implemented more if the team is going to move forward.

There clearly is a desire to be more expansive, but the team needs to play in the right areas if they are to grow and will need to use their options better as the opposition will only improve as the tournament goes on.

In so many instances the Boks started off promising moves, only to butcher them through their own doing. And at this level, in this competition, you’re always going to be punished if you cough up the ball so easily.

One thing is certain, after the performance in Sydney earlier in the day, this Bok side can’t come close to matching the World Champion All Blacks, and that should be a massive concern.


But back to the positive, and while there are many players who would struggle to get a pass mark on the night, Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje certainly stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack for a performance that could easily have given him the man of the match award.

Faf de Klerk’s feisty manner and his contribution in the comeback took the honour with little argument, and the halfback is growing with every game and has become a resounding success story since taking the step up to international level.

The team started strongly and denied Argentina any ball for the first 10 minutes of the test, surging into a 7-0 lead after Argentina rushed up too early and left a gaping hole for Jantjies to ghost into.

The finish by Ruan Combrinck was classy, as was Goosen’s inside pass to get him close to the line.

But there were moments of madness that followed and even with a one-man advantage, it slowly became clear that Argentina’s physicality at the breakdown and counter attack was causing the Boks problems.

Sanchez got them onto the board but the Boks were 10-3 up when the first card of the match was shown, with Manual Monteiro receiving his marching orders for tipping Damian de Allende at a ruck.

But surprisingly, the Pumas got stronger and found more holes when they were down to 14, with Sanchez first adding a penalty and then a wonderful attack from their own 22, which involved several players sweeping upfield before Matias Orlando went over to rock the Boks and put the Pumas into the lead for the first time.

With a one-man advantage the Boks didn’t score a point, and conceded not only the lead, but 10 points in that period, putting them behind as they went into the break 13-10 down.

The second half saw the Boks on the back foot immediately, as Bryan Habana received a yellow for slipping in an aerial challenge on Joaquin Tuculet that clipped the fullback and saw him tumble to the ground.

While the teams swopped penalties it looked as if the Pumas had planted the knockout blow in the 66th minute as a poor up and under on attack from Jantjies was easily gathered and run back into space by Isa, with the Boks scrambling back and just stopping the Argentine juggernaut.

They had no answer though when Sanchez stabbed though a chip that saw Santiago Cordero gather and score to give them a 10 point lead with 14 minutes to play.

The Boks looked dead and buried, until Faf’s switch with Goosen which flat-footed the defence and saw the Racing Metro fullback go over.

And with the pressure on suddenly Argentina made mistakes, and the Boks grew stronger.

A lineout drive was sacked and Jesse Kriel took it up, only for De Klerk to switch the direction of attack, and Eben Etzebeth to draw two players before Habana sent Whiteley away.

The Lions captain had a bit of work to do, but powered his way over to seal the game, and then collected the kickoff and in a frenzy almost messed up clearing the ball.

Luckily he was bundled into touch and the whistle went.

The Boks will know they again used a get-out-of-jail card and their own individual errors made the game difficult.

If they don’t find an answer to this soon, it may be a tough road abroad in the next few weeks – both in South America and Australasia.


Springboks – tries: Ruan Combrinck, Johan Goosen, Warren Whiteley. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (3).

Argentina – tries: Matias Orlando, Santiago Cordero. Conversions: Nicolas Sanchez (2). Penalties: Nicolas Sanchez (3).

The Castle Lager Rugby Championship
Saturday, July 20 2019
17:05 - South Africa vs Australia
Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Saturday, July 27 2019
09:35 - New Zealand vs South Africa
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, August 10 2019
00:00 - Argentina vs South Africa
Castle Lager Incoming Series
Saturday, August 17 2019
17:05 - South Africa vs Argentina
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
RWC Warm-up game
Friday, September 06 2019
00:00 - Japan vs South Africa
Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama
Rugby World Cup
Saturday, September 21 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs New Zealand
International Stadium, Yokohama
Saturday, September 28 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs Namibia
City of Toyota Stadium
Friday, October 04 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs Italy
Shizuoka Stadium
Tuesday, October 08 2019
12:15 - South Africa vs Canada
Kobe Misaki Stadium

Copyright - SA Rugby. All Rights Reserved - Photos by Gallo Images