The Springboks beat Argentina 32 - 12 in Port Elizabeth, with a score line that had fans reminiscing about their World Cup triumph over England. Whilst in the other Rugby Championship game, played earlier in the day, the All Blacks put the Wallabies away 57 - 22. The Springboks and All Blacks have 5 log points a piece after round 1, with the New Zealanders ahead on points difference alone.
The Springboks put out a vastly different side against Argentina to that which played against the British & Irish Lions in the decider, with only Cobus Reinach in the backline playing both tests as a starter. There was a debut for Joseph Dweba up front at hooker and Aphelele Fassi was appearing in his 2nd test out on the wing, after making his debut earlier in the year against Georgia.
The Springboks defense at this stage seems almost impregnable, in their last 17 games since 2019, they have only conceded 13 tries (0.76 tries per game). The influence of defence guru Jacques Nienaber on this aspect of the game is plain for everyone to see. Defence shows a lot about a teams willingness to play for one another and the determination to get up and make tackle after tackle when the pressure is on. This Springbok side has it in abundance.
The win against Argentina was more significant than the score line might suggest however, as it was for the most part, a 2nd string side that faced Los Pumas. Apparently that wasn't known to the players though as they showed that they deserve to be there and most of them grabbed their opportunity for a start with both hands. Its a testament to the team environment and coaching skill set that the Springboks have been quietly building squad depth that has been absent in years prior.
Jaden Hendrikse was a late call up to the bench in place of the injured Herschel Jantjies and he scored a sublime try on debut. We are well stocked at 9, with Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Herschel Jantjies and now Jaden too. That's not the only position brimming over, at wing there is Mapimpi, Kolbe, Nkosi and Fassi. Centers too have De Allende, Am, Steyn, Kriel, Simelane and Willemse. Whilst South Africa's depth at forward is well documented already.
Fassi was sublime in this game, scoring an epic try out wide after juggling the ball before tucking it in and dotting it down. He was unfortunately denied another one, after Malcolm Marx was penalised for a double movement. Blooding the young talent on the wing instead of his preferred position of fullback seems to have been a master stroke, and the continued growth will help the player establish himself in the test arena.
Cobus Reinach also had a stellar performance at the base, his speed showed how much of an attacking threat he truly is, whilst he kicked and passed to perfection too. Faf de Klerk and Reinach will be fighting it out for that starting birth come the All Blacks. Jasper Wiese was another who truly announced his arrival on the international stage as he strung together a barn storming performance at 8. Wiese is starting to illustrate why faith was shown in him to fulfill the role of Duane Vermeulen in the interim.
This is no longer a Springbok team on the rise, but a team that demands from its players, performances befitting of their title of World Champions and Lion tamers and they will continue to remind the rugby world that they are number 1. The upcoming test with the All Blacks gets more enticing with each week that passes.