Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
There was no fairytale debut for Argentina in the Rugby Championship Saturday as they fell 27-6 to more creative South Africa at Newlands.
An often scrappy game was won and lost in the first 20 minutes of the second half when the Pumas missed three penalty kicks after trailing 20-6 at halftime before right winger Bryan Habana snatched an opportunist try.
"We played well in patches but there is a lot of work ahead and we need to be hard on ourselves when analysing this match," South Africa captain and outside centre Jean de Villiers said.
"There was a lot to play for today after the terrible scenes at Lonmin mine two days ago. We have a huge job to perform for our country - we have to offer people hope."
Clashes between armed police and miners striking for higher salaries in the North West province on Thursday led to 34 deaths, dozens of injuries and hundreds of arrests.
"Argentina made history today and we feel honoured as the first players from the country to play in the southern hemisphere championship," said skipper and No.8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
"This was a high-intensity rugby match and I am proud of my players for never giving up. I am also grateful to those who worked so hard for so many years to get us this opportunity."
South Africa will be disappointed at failing to secure a bonus-point fourth try from late pressure in what will probably be the easiest of six fixtures in the former Tri-Nations.
Five-eighth Morne Steyn was back to his place-kicking best for the Springboks after a poor mid-year series against England, landing three conversions and two penalties for a perfect record.
Argentina could have done with him as outside centre Marcelo Bosch failed from an early second-half penalty attempt and then fly-half Juan Martin Hernandez fluffed two closer-range kicks at goal.
The Pumas pack recovered from a poor start in which they conceded free kicks at the first two scrums for early engagements to hold their own in the set pieces and win some crucial turnovers.
But the backs never looked like scoring a try and this will be an area of concern for coach Santiago Phelan ahead of the return match in western provincial capital Mendoza next Saturday.
Fullback Zane Kirchner and flank Marcell Coetzee crossed the tryline in the first half for South Africa with Steyn converting both and kicking two penalties.
Hernandez, back in the blue and white of the Pumas after a three-year injuries-induced absence, succeeded with both his first-half penalty attempts for the South Americans.
21 MAY 2013