South Africa scored four tries in the second half to come from behind and beat Argentina 34-21 in the Rugby Championship, avoiding a second straight surprise defeat to the Pumas in Durban.
The Springboks scored first but trailed 14-5 and 14-10 at halftime after Argentina hit back with tries by flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and flanker Pablo Matera at Kings Park on Saturday (overnight NZ), where the Argentines won their first test over South Africa in 2015.
This time, South Africa replied with three tries and 17 unanswered points in the first 15 minutes of the second half, with wingers Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi each completing a double.
South Africa dominated territory throughout but wasted opportunities in attack and was sloppy again with 13 minutes left to gift Argentina centre Matias Moroni an intercept try. The Pumas were just a converted try behind and in striking range at 27-21.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk’s snipe from close range, the sixth try for the Boks, put the game beyond doubt and gave coach Rassie Erasmus a winning start in the Rugby Championship.
South Africa’s bonus-point victory matched defending champion New Zealand’s six-try, 38-13 win over Australia earlier Saturday to open the Rugby Championship.
Argentina’s coach was also in charge of his first game in the championship, with Mario Ledesma only taking over the Pumas at the start of this month.
His team was on the back foot for most of the opening half in Durban but pounced on two opportunities to go ahead.
Centre Lukhanyo Am put South Africa in front in the eighth minute but the home team couldn’t hold the lead.
Matera, in his 50th test, strode in to score when South Africa again lost possession.
Dyantyi, after a try-scoring debut in the England series in June, scored his first from a cross-kick by le Roux eight minutes before halftime.
Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard struggled from the kicking tee, though, and Argentina led by four at the break.
Dyantyi was the spark for the Boks in the second, with another kick chase two minutes into the half restoring South Africa’s lead.
Mapimpi collected his two tries in the space of five minutes, going in untouched both times from big overlaps and getting a gift from Dyantyi for his second when his wing partner could have scored himself.
South Africa was still in control when debutant flyhalf Damian Willemse, who came off the bench, threw a high looping pass to another newcomer, flanker Marco van Staden. Van Staden couldn’t hold the pass and Moroni swooped to run 40 meters untouched for Argentina’s third.
De Klerk capped a solid day with the pressure-relieving score with 10 minutes to go, finishing off after South Africa’s forwards had driven to a meter out from Argentina’s tryline.
Erasmus has three wins from five tests since taking over the Springboks this season but his progress will be judged when South Africa faces Australia and, ultimately, the top-ranked All Blacks later in the championship.
First, Argentina hosts the Springboks in a return game next weekend.