PRETORIA (Reuters) - Wing S’busiso Nkosi scored two excellent solo tries as much-changed South Africa survived a massive scare at home to see off Argentina with a 24-18 victory in their one-off test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies kicked 14 points as the home side battled to open up the visitors’ defence in a scrappy World Cup warm-up clash that included numerous errors from both sides.
Argentina scored tries through lock Guido Petti and skipper Pablo Matera and might have had more were it not for poor handling at vital moments as they slipped to a ninth successive test defeat.
The Boks fielded a completely new starting XV from the one that thumped Argentina 46-13 in Salta the week before to lift the Rugby Championship. The South American side also came into the match with 10 changes, which contributed to the disjointed nature of the contest.
“We wanted to play a nice brand of rugby, but we scraped it through. We played too much of the game in our own half,” Bok skipper Schalk Brits said.
“We wanted to create some depth and keep the momentum up. We are now looking forward to the World Cup.”
The opening 20 minutes featured unforced errors but after the teams traded penalties, the opening try came in simple fashion.
The Boks repeatedly crashed into the Argentine defence in the midfield, before swinging the ball wide for Nkosi, whose dancing feet and raw power saw him beat two defenders and dot down.
But Argentina grabbed the halftime lead after the hooter as Bok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach’s pass was intercepted by Petti and he showed good speed for a lock to race clear and hand the visitors a 10-8 advantage.
Argentina should have had a second score soon after the restart when home fullback Warrick Gelant had his clearance kick charged down, but Sebastian Cancelliere knocked the ball on with the tryline at his mercy.
A second piece of magic from Nkosi punished the visitors for their profligacy as he collected the ball out wide and showed the same speed and athleticism as his first score, but this time beat four defenders to cross in the corner.
Regular Bok skipper Siya Kolisi lasted 53 minutes of his comeback match after he missed the entire Rugby Championship with a knee injury.
“I needed Siya a lot out there today and it was great to see him on the pitch,” Brits admitted.
Argentina scored their second try when Matera barged over, but Jantjies landed a 50-yard penalty to put the Boks ahead again.
The visitors thought they had stolen the lead with four minutes remaining when they had the ball over the tryline, but television match Official Simon McDowell disallowed the score for an obstruction in the build-up.
“It was a different game from last week and I’m really happy how the team put in the effort,” Matera said.
“We had two chances to score more tries, so the game could have gone to either team.
“But the World Cup is coming, everything is positive, everything is great. We have a lot of positives and also things to work on.”
Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Tony Lawrence and Pritha Sarkar