South Africa cruise by weary Argentina in bronze match
The Springboks were largely thankful to Handre Pollard’s 14 points from the boot
Argentina’s fly half and captain Nicolas Sanchez is tackled by South Africa’s flanker Schalk Burger during the bronze medal match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup between South Africa and Argentina at the Olympic Stadium, London. Photo: getty Images
Bryan Habana endured a wretched night in missing four fine chances to break Jonah Lomu’s all-time World Cup try-scoring record despite South Africa seeing off Argentina 24-13.
The Springboks secured third place at London’s Olympic Stadium thanks to tries from JP Pietersen and Eben Etzebeth, with Handre Pollard landing 14 points from the tee.
Habana botched a host of chances in what will surely be his last World Cup turn, the 32-year-old ending his glittering World Cup career tied on 15 tries with former New Zealand prodigy Lomu.
Argentina again won the hearts for their endless determination to attack from all quarters, but could not quite puncture the Springboks’ measured defence.
Fly-half and captain on the night Nicolas Sanchez ended the tournament with 97 points, edging ahead of South Africa’s Pollard with 93.
The Pumas’ former Toulon playmaker will now most likely seize the golden boot as the top points scorer at this World Cup.
Habana could have had four tries in the first half alone. Instead the 32-year-old became so gripped by white-line fever that he lost his famed finishing edge.
South Africa plundered their only score of the half immediately after Tomas Cubelli was sin-binned for a high tackle.
Habana’s fellow wing Pietersen flew home on the right as the Springboks exploited their extra man, Pollard posting the conversion.
The Pumas recovered in style, attacking from everywhere, refusing to punt for position in favour of throwing width on the ball.
As against Australia in the semi-final however, Argentina’s over-exuberance allowed their opponents to dominate the territory.
South Africa would have been out of sight had Habana’s finishing been up to scratch.
First Lucas Amorosino beat the Toulon speedster to a loose ball to deny Habana that World Cup record. Then Habana knocked on from Pollard’s floated wide pass with the line at his mercy.
The hat-trick of fluffed chances came with Habana pulled down by Horacio Agulla after a clever infield chip had created another try-scoring opportunity.
The final insult came when Habana read Nicolas Sanchez’s wide pass, only to miss the intercept by a fraction.
Though South Africa failed to add to their early score in the half, Pollard kept punting the penalties, punishing Argentina’s indiscipline.
Argentina started the second half brightly and one more pass through the tight-five could have yielded a try.
The Pumas settled for a Sanchez drop-goal however, the fly-half and skipper dropping into the pocket and producing a fine strike.
The Springboks hit back immediately, Schalk Burger winning a turnover in Argentina’s 22 and captain Matfield cutting through the line.
Heyneke Meyer’s men recycled the ball at speed and lock Etzebeth stretched for the try in the left corner.
Habana’s miserable night continued as he let a regulation wide pass slip straight through his fingers for a cheap knock-on in his own 22.
Another cheap penalty from Argentina gifted Pollard his fourth goal of the night, stretching the Springboks’ lead to 21 points.
Sanchez punted a regulation penalty shot to the corner, only for Argentina to muck up their lineout and waste the lifeline.
The Pumas won another penalty shortly afterwards and this time Sanchez took the points.
A second half filled more with bludgeon than rapier left Habana with scant opportunity to make amends for his earlier profligacy.
And when the Toulon star was replaced by Jan Serfontein midway through the final quarter, so his chance to eclipse Lomu disappeared.
South Africa were roundly booed for opting to kick at goal, with Pollard inexplicably striking a post.
Moments later the Springboks opted to punt another penalty to touch, only for Pollard to shank the kick and allow the Pumas to clear.
Argentina battered South Africa’s 22 at the death, their industry and enterprise hugely deserving of a try. And finally it came, when prop Pablo Orlandi barrelled home.
Sanchez slotted the conversion to complete the clash, fittingly handing the Pumas the last word in a tournament all the richer for their verve, incision and sense of fun.
South Africa: Le Roux (Lambie, 64); Pietersen, Kriel, De Allende, Habana (Serfontein, 67); Pollard, Pienaar (Paige, 77); Mtawarira (Nyakane, h-t), B du Plessis (Strauss, 49), Malherbe (J du Plessis, 61), Etzebeth, Matfield (capt, De Jager, 63), Louw, Burger (Alberts, 54), Vermeulen. Tries Pietersen, Etzebeth. Con Pollard. Pens Pollard 4.
Argentina: Amorosino; Cordero, Moroni, De la Fuente (Iglesias, 72), Agulla (Socino, 58); Sánchez (capt), Cubelli (Landajo, 53); Figallo (Noguero, 61), Montoya (Botta, 77), Herrera (Orlandi, 55), Alemanno (Petti, 47), Lavanini, Desio, Lobbe (Isa, 53), Leguizamon. Try Orlandi. Con Sánchez. Pen Sánchez. Drop goal Sánchez.
Referee: J Lacey (Ire).