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October 15th, 2007
Springboks are a game away from winning the greatest rugby
prize on earth after a 37-13 win over Argentina.
Bryan Habana starred with two tries, but to limit praise to
an individual would be grossly unfair on a group of men who
left part of their soul on the Stade de France pitch.
The manner in which they resisted a second half fightback
was impressive and spoke volumes about the value of
experience in this side. They’ll go into the final as
favourites, and rightly so. But coach Jake White will know
that any complacency could cost them against a spirited
The Argentineans were typically emotional as their anthem
rang around the stadium. But where they had shown composure
post anthem in previous games, it was sorely missing against
a Bok team whose steely pre-match body language told of a
team full of purpose.
The clinical phase-based game Argentina played to gain
victories over France, Ireland and Scotland was replaced by
a game plan that relied almost entirely on driving mauls and
up and unders. Both tactics proved unsuccessful, the former
succumbing to superb Bok fringe defensive, while the latter
failed due to poor execution.
it was the Boks who kicked better on the evening, although
this facet of play was far from flawless. Even when
Argentina did seek to counterattack, the Boks were quick to
regain defensive structure and never looked in any real
danger of being penetrated regularly.
A large part of the Boks’ success has to be attributed to
their superb ball protection at the breakdown. Argentina had
previously caused havoc in this facet of play, slowing or
stealing possession which allowed them to dictate the tempo
of their matches. The Boks’ dominance extended to the
lineouts where Victor Matfield’s plate-like mitts pilfered
countless Pumas throws. Their tackle fight was equally
impressive, where the Bok defenders often gang tackled
powerful Pumas ball carriers.
That defensive pressure made Argentina stray from their
staid and conservative approach, forcing them into a scrappy
expansive move that saw Felipe Contemponi thow a speculative
pass which Fourie du Preez intercepted. The scrumhalf
sprinted 60m to give the Boks an early lead.
The Boks remained controlled and purposeful in their
approach, hitting up through the phases and getting good
reward in terms of metres gained. The collective were
looking formidable but a moment of individual brilliance
from Habana hinted that this was going to be the Boks’
Schalk Burger turned over possession and the ball found the
winger on the opposite flank. Habana chipped his marker,
collected and turned on the afterburners to race home.
The Boks were in cruise control and only poor option taking
prevented them extending the lead. As their confidence grew,
so Argentina’s self doubt became more apparent. Their key
players cracked under pressure, none more so than Juan
he is the best flyhalf in the world, as some would have you
believe, he didn’t show the class to match that billing
tonight. He was uncharacteristically robotic, and it was his
handling error just before half-time that allowed Danie
Rossouw to score the Boks’ third try, after some deft
handling in midfield.
Argentina had to be content with two penalties from Felipe
Contepomi and at 24-6 only a New Zealand-esque choke could
deny the Boks a return trip to St Denis.
That wobble came early in the second half when Mauro
Contepomi scored from a move that started with a turnover in
the Boks’ 22. The Pumas were buoyed by the score and the
pressure told on the Boks, whose error count and missed
tackles in the third quarter skyrocketed.
But they soon regained composure and Percy Montgomery put
them two converted tries ahead with a penalty. The Pumas
were desperate for the five pointer that would reignite
their challenge and reverted to an unstructured approach in
search of the decisive score.
But again Juan Martín Hernández failed a team who needed him
to remain composed. The pivot threw a hopeful pass which
Habana snatched out of the air to seal the win.
The Pumas were inconsolable at the final whistle. Their
dream ended prematurely, they will say, but there’s little
doubt which side deserved the win.
Only England stand in the way of South Africa and a second
world crown. Can the Boks do it?
By Ryan Vrede
South Africa - Try: Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana (2), Danie
Rossouw. Conversion: Percy Montgomery (4). Penalty:
Argentina - Try: Manuel Contepomi. Conversion: Felipe
Contepomi. Penalty: Felipe Contepomi (2)
Posted by Ryan | Keo.co.za