A Handre Pollard-inspired South Africa have warmed up for the World Cup in superb style, beating Argentina 46-13 in the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship in Salta to claim their first major trophy for 10 years.
Flyhalf Pollard scored two of his side’s five tries and kicked five penalties and three conversions for a personal haul of 31 points, his best in an international.
Argentina winger Santiago Cordero shocked the South Africans by going over in the corner in the second minute in Salta but hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi put the visitors 8-7 ahead after 13 minutes after a driving maul.
Pollard and Puma flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez then got locked into a kicking duel, exchanging penalties, before the 25-year-old South African dived over the tryline just before the break to make it 24-13.
The Springboks’ progress slowed early in the second half when scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was sin-binned, only for Pollard to cross again.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Duane Vermeulen, who captained the twice world champions.
“It’s the first time in 10 years South Africa has won the Rugby Championship or Tri-Nations and it’s a nice reward for all the hard work we’ve put in.
“It’s also a good thing for us going into the World Cup. It’s one step up, still a lot of work to be done but yah, it’s a good feeling.”
The competition has been shortened to one round of matches due to the Rugby World Cup in Japan which starts on September 20.
South Africa last won the Rugby Championship when it was known as the Tri Nations – way back in 2009.
Argentina became the fourth team to join the championship in 2012.
New Zealand had won the past three championships and six of the previous seven.
SOUTH AFRICA 46 (Handre Pollard 2, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Bongi Mbonambi tries Pollard 3 cons 5 pens) bt ARGENTINA 13 (Santiago Cordero try Nicolas Sanchez con 2 pens) at Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena. Referee: Romain Poite. Crowd: 22,190.
More to come…
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