BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - South Africa were not better or stronger than Argentina, just more streetwise. The Pumas were unable to kill off the Springboks and let them wriggle free.
"They were there for the knockout (blow) and we didn’t deal it," Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade said after his team’s 33-31 loss to South Africa in Salta on Saturday.
Argentina had done enough to beat South Africa for the first time but they need to learn how to secure victories that are within their grasp, Hourcade said.
"All we lacked today was knowing how to win it," he told reporters after the teams' second meeting of the four-nation Rugby Championship.
A psychologist who specialises in sport told the Argentine daily La Nacion that what separated the Pumas from South Africa was the mental factor.
"This is why it is so important to work on that aspect... know when that logical fear of 'not being able to (handle the pressure)' appears and produce individual and team mechanisms to allow us to carry on with a game plan that put us in a (strong) position," German Diorio said.
The Pumas, who lost 13-6 in Pretoria the previous weekend, had the Springboks on the ropes after three tries had helped them to a 12-point lead going into the final quarter.
South Africa pulled the win out of the bag because Argentina lost the domination they had held for an hour and the Springboks, who ran in one try in the first half, won with a Morne Steyn penalty after two more tries put them back in the match.
"They managed a win they fought for but we deserved the triumph more than anything because of our game," said Hourcade, disappointed with the result but pleased with his team’s performance.
Superior fitness and strength from the bench helped South Africa preserve a 19-match unbeaten record against Argentina, Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said.
"I'm not saying that the players who started did badly, but our bench, whom we see as impact players rather than replacements, certainly made an impact today and that is probably where the difference was," he said.
Hourcade added: "We should have had the ball in the final 15 minutes. There was a real tiredness and we couldn’t make changes because there were three players with problems.
"When the team set out to play, they show they can do it at this level. We’ve got to look at the glass half full, try to take the positive and analyse how to win the match."
(Writing by Rex Gowar; editing by Josh Reich)