South Africa won the battle but lost the war after their 38-21 victory over undisciplined Argentina in a packed King’s Park in Durban, a result that gave New Zealand the 2022 Rugby Championship title.
The All Blacks lead the table with 19 points from their six games, one more than South Africa, who failed to create the try-scoring bonus point they needed to lift the trophy with a 39-point lead on the scoreboard.
Instead, Argentina narrowly overtook them in Durban but were again disappointed in their discipline as they received four yellow cards and conceded two penalty tries. The Boks also scored through number eight Jasper Wiese, loose forward Siya Kolisi and backup full-back Kurt-Lee Arendse.
The visitors looked dangerous every time they had the ball and scored three tries through halfback Gonzalo Bertranou, backline Juan Marten Gonzalez and center Matias Moroni, but spent most of their time defending as they were in the Game conceded 22 penalties.
“It’s tough but we never take victory for granted and it’s an honor to beat a great team like Argentina,” said South Africa captain Kolisi.
“The way we started, it was slow. But we managed to collect some points. Our discipline also let us down at times.
“When we create opportunities… we’ve been in their half so many times and didn’t take the chances. We’re doing so much, our game plan is working, we just don’t take those opportunities.”
New Zealand’s 40-14 win over Australia made South Africa’s task in Durban difficult, especially as they have only surpassed 40 points in a game once since winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup – against Georgia in July last year.
Like Kolisi, coach Jacques Nienaber has lamented his inability to convert the pressure in opponents’ 22-man squad into points this season, and it proved it again in the first half as they dominated possession and territory but led 17-7 at the break .
It was a mix of poor decision-making, strong Argentina defense and cynical play from the visitors that resulted in yellow cards for strikers Marcos Kremer and Juan Martin Gonzalez, but the Boks failed to capitalize on that.
Wiese scored his first try in the green and gold jersey as the home side rushed the ball over the line before Kolisi crossed when he broke from a maul and dived over.
Argentina half-back Gonzalo Bertranou clawed back a try before half-time when he benefited from a weak host defence.
For the second week in a row, Argentina started the second half much brighter and were rewarded with an excellent second result from loose forward Gonzalez, who showed superb pace to dash down the left wing and take the point down.
But the power play of the Boks and their Bomb Squad off the bench sapped the visitors’ energy and they conceded two more goals from Driving Mauls that ended in penalties and two more yellow cards.