“Argentina belong in this company and they will be tough to beat. Today was a stepping stone for them,” Springbok captain Jean de Villiers told a news conference after his team had outscored the Pumas by three tries to nil, but had only scored seven points in the second half.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said the other teams in the southern hemisphere tournament – New Zealand and Australia – should not underestimate newcomers Argentina.
“Full credit to them. They were right on the advantage line. People underestimate Argentina and they play great rugby, they are going to do well in the tournament. Those 15 opponents in blue made it impossible for us to get four tries and the bonus point,” Meyer said.
The Argentina captain and coach were mindful of the fact that they are going to need to improve if they are to beat one of the southern hemisphere giants in the Rugby Championship, and they were both disappointed by the Pumas’ error count at Newlands.
“For us, it is difficult to come to play the Springboks, but our mistakes gave them scoring opportunities. We made too many penalties in the first half and some balls were lost which South Africa turned to points. And it was difficult to leave our own part of the field.
“We didn’t do so well, but being our first game, we are happy with the performance. We need to improve a lot of things, but the players gave 100% and that is what we had wanted,” coach Santiago Phelan said.
“It was a good first step, we honestly realised how intense this type of rugby is. We can look at ourselves proudly as we gave everything, it was very intense.
“Today was a good step and we are proud to be in this tournament. Five more games and if we use them and keep on giving everything, if we improve, then we will be happy,” captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe said.
The Pumas were particularly good at the rucks on Saturday and the Springboks struggled to gain continuity from their front-foot ball thanks to the determination of the visitors.
“Our kicking game was better than against England and we got in the right areas of the field, but at the breakdown we didn’t get the recycling we wanted,” Meyer said. “We missed Bismarck du Plessis – he is the leader of the pack. We need to be more physical in the breakdown.”
The physical and combative Du Plessis, the form hooker in SuperRugby, left the field after just four minutes with a knee injury.
Both Meyer and De Villiers praised the character of flyhalf Morne Steyn, whose response to the harsh criticism he received after the England series was a faultless performance with the boot and a key hand in two of the Springboks’ three tries.