It seemed like the end of the world for the Springboks last night, and indeed it is perhaps the end of their realistic World Cup ambitions for 2015 given their utterly deplorable performance, but the sun rose again today, just as it always does, and never would have it been more glorious than in Argentina where even the most soccer-mad supporter in that country would have joyously embraced the news of one of their country’s greatest ever sporting triumphs.
Los Pumas had beaten the Springboks for the time ever, in their 20th attempt, although the 1982 South American Jaguars that won in Bloemfontein in 1982 comprised a starting 15 of only Argentinians.
This was the real thing for the current crop of Pumas, just as it was sadly surreal for the Springboks, and while at the final whistle Kings Park was a scene of unmitigated joy for the hugging, singing Argentinians, the dumfounded Springboks looked like they had been visited by the Four Horsemen of the Apocaplyse : Despair, Bewilderment, Terror and Frustration.
And on South African soil, nog al, if there is a translation for that in Spanish. Perhaps the one Afrikaner smiling down from the rugby heavens was the late and former Natal coach Izak van Heerden, who in the 1960s went to Argentina to teach them the game of rugby and this last week 10 of the Pumas team that played the Junior Boks in 1965 travelled to Durban and met at DHS, the school where Van Heerden (a teacher) died at his desk in 1973, to pay homage to his contribution to the game in their country.
Another who would have been punching the air in joy, in his Buenos Aries home, was possibly the most famous Puma of them all, Hugo Porta, who was magnificent in orchestrating the victory over the Boks in 1982 and he was just about emulated yesterday by current No 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, who was quite brilliant in guiding his team to a four-try to three win, and weighing in with timely penalties and a drop goal.
The gifted Hernandez was temporarily a Shark a few seasons go but left after a month of the Currie Cup because he did not like Durban, and it was a touch ironic that he gave a virtuoso display at Kings Park, the ground where he had arrived amid much ceremony for the Sharks and departed under a mysterious cloud.
The Boks were 6-19 down after 30 minutes and talk among the cynics was that the disintegration of the team from the heights of almost beating the All Blacks and the Wallabies was not unlike what was witnessed in the Aussie Ashes collapse at Nottingham a few days ago – Nobody knew how it could happen and were simply disbelieving.
It was as bad as that. This was supposed to be the confidence booster the Boks needed, an injection of tonic after two defeats in the Rugby Championship, but the South Americans were in no mood to be sacrificial lambs on the altar of South Africa’s World Cup ambition’s and ruthlessly showed exposed the Boks as being anything but title contenders just six weeks from their opening Pool match against Japan.
While most had predicted it would be a case of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” for the visitors, the Kings Park Faithful were crying out for Patrick Lambie by the time the game reached the three-quarter mark and the out-of-sorts Handre Pollard had just fluffed his second restart to go with a succession of defensive errors that had let the Pumas in for first-half tries.
It was a horrible moment to hear Pollard being booed and the crowd singing: “Lambie, Lambie, Lambie.” They had expected the home town hero to start instead of Pollard, who had been under a concussion cloud earlier this week, and in hindsight coach Heyneke Meyer did err in not giving the fresh Lambie a shot instead of a jaded Pollard.
In truth, the game was won and lost before it got to the flyhalf stage. The Boks were well and truly beaten in the set scrums and at the breakdown, and the backline had little chance from that platform, and they were continuously caught trying to play rugby in their own half.
The bottom line is that the Springboks are the Rugby Championship wooden spoonists. They have lost four of their seven Test matches and have just next Saturday’s game against this same Pumas team in the Argentine capital to fix their game before the World Cup.
As they would say in soccer, it is a good World Cup to win from here …
Photo: Anne Laing
Springboks – Tries: Lood de Jager, Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (2).
Argentina – Tries: Marcelo Bosch, Juan Imhoff (3). Conversions: Juan Martín Hernández (4). Penalty: Hernandez, Bosch. Drop goal: Bosch.
by Mike Greenaway at Kings Park
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