Breakdown problems haunt Springboks

by staff

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer admitted on Sunday he has serious back-row problems to solve before a Rugby Championship third-round clash in Australia next month.

His first away game since replacing out-of-contract Peter de Villiers last January did not go according to plan this weekend as they snatched an undeserved 16-16 draw with fired-up newcomers Argentina.

Los Pumas held a 10-point lead three times at Estadio Mundialista Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza and it took a Francois Steyn try off a charge down to salvage some pride for the often outplayed Springboks.

Next up for the two-time world champions is a September 8 showdown with bogey team Australia in Perth, followed a week later by an even more daunting assignment against World Cup holders New Zealand in Dunedin.

Meyer gambled on a new loose trio combination of flankers Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter and No.8 Willem Alberts in the western city at the foothills of the Andes mountain range.

But the anticipated physicality from his back-row never materialised as they repeatedly came off second best at the breakdowns while a near-capacity 40,000 crowd roared on the home team.

"We battled at the breakdown, we got little quick ball and, when we did, we should have used it better," Meyer admitted.

"Argentina came hard at us as expected -- creating many difficult situations for our inexperienced team -- and we were found wanting at times when it came to mental toughness.

"I am sorry the way we played did not honour the great welcome we had in Mendoza. The people can be proud of their team," said Meyer of a national team avoiding defeat for the first time in 15 Tests against the Springboks.

Meyer opted for ball-carrying loose forwards when he took over and discarded Heinrich Brussow, ranked among the best "scavengers" in world rugby for his ability to win possession at rucks and mauls.

Potgieter was a particular disappointment in Mendoza, never stamping his authority on the game like he did for the Bulls in his maiden Super Rugby season.