This was a big win for the Springboks. To beat a side as good as the Pumas by 20 points and keep them try-less a week after the high of the Lions series win was some achievement, writes Mark Keohane.
This was my banana peel match for the Boks. I felt it could easily go wrong for the Boks because of the potential of a comedown from the high of the Lions series.
Argentina, a fortnight ago, hammered Wales in winning a two-Test series and were primed for giving the Springboks one heck of a Test match.
The emotional demands of the past month for the Boks and their coaches can’t be overstated. The Lions series was massive and it would have been as much a mental as physical drain.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber trusted his squad depth in making 10 changes to the starting XV and they all delivered in putting the Pumas away 32-12.
To think, 12 of the Lions series third Test series winners can come back into this Bok side and three more (Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk) were not available because of injury.
The Boks have the most depth of any country in the front row, be it at prop or hooker and it doesn’t seem to matter who wears numbers one to three, or who replaces those wearing numbers one to three, the result is the same – a dominant Bok scrum.
Vincent Koch at tighthead was immense and Joseph Dweba in his Test debut at hooker was strong in his 45 minute stint.
Siya Kolisi led from the front for his 53 minutes and Eben Etzebeth was just such a presence.
Lood de Jager controlled the lineout with calm and precision and he is such a good player, while No 8 Jasper Wiese showed the collision dominance he has done all year at Leicester Tigers. Marco van Staden also looked good, and hooker Malcolm Marx is any coach’s dream to start or inject influence into a game.
It was a good occasion for the Boks, especially the many who haven’t played rugby for the past month.
Veteran inside centre Frans Steyn was busy and played all 80 minutes, while the Aphelele Fassi played with the confidence of a 50-Test veteran.
Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach ripped it up for Northampton Saints regularly before his move to Montpellier and against Argentina we saw all the qualities of Reinach: his aggressive defence, his kicking game and the pace of the best wingers in the game.
Bok coach Nienaber, without question the finest defensive specialist in the game and there are some brilliant defence coaches, like Shaun Edwards, would have been as pleased with the defensive structure and maintaining of shape from a team so vastly changed from last week.
The Boks, in their last 17 Tests have conceded 13 tries and the three scored against Argentina is consistent with a team that, prior to Saturday, had scored 31 tries in 11 Tests against Tier One opposition.
There was a completely different feel to Saturday’s Test and a normality to the occasion after the hype and unfolding drama of the Lions series.
Kolisi would have emphasised how important it was for the Boks to back up the Lions series win with a quality performance and his teammates delivered exactly that.
The Springboks are not the All Blacks and vice versa and I thought the All Blacks, in typical All Blacks style, were outstanding in dismantling the Wallabies 57-22 in Auckland. Equally the Boks were as good, given the mix and match match day composition, and the toughness of the Pumas.
Both the world champions and the team that has dominated world rugby for eight of the last 10 years, made emphatic statements in the Rugby Championship opener.
Also on www.keo.co.za