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South Africa wins 24-18 after Pumas late try disallowed

August 17, 2019
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South Africa's S'bu Nkosi runs to scores a try during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
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South Africa's S'bu Nkosi runs to scores a try during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A second-string Springboks team beat Argentina 24-18 in a Rugby World warmup test on Saturday which would have given both team’s preparations a different complexion if the Pumas hadn’t had a late try disallowed.

Center Lucas Mensa’s score in the 77th minute would have put Argentina ahead 23-21 with a conversion to come — and very possibly given Argentina just its second win over the Boks in South Africa — but was ruled out for an obstruction early in the counterattack.

Instead, South Africa flyhalf Elton Jantjies kicked the resultant penalty down the other end of the field to seal victory and finish with 14 points off the tee. Wing S’busiso Nkosi scored a try in each half to help keep the Springboks unbeaten this season with one more warmup test to come before the World Cup in Japan.

South Africa’s frontline players were given a rest by coach Rassie Erasmus after they crushed Argentina 46-13 in Salta a week ago to win a curtailed Rugby Championship. Erasmus didn’t start any first-choice players at Loftus Versfeld except captain Siya Kolisi, who returned from injury for his first test this season.

“We had some things confirmed and learnt other things about combinations,” Erasmus said.

Some of the starting 15, like 38-year-old hooker Schalk Brits, who captained the team on Saturday, are probably third in line in their positions. The Springboks reserves did enough.

“We scraped it through,” Brits said. “Rassie’s got his plans, he plans very thoroughly, and he wants to create a bit of depth. We pulled it through, we kept the momentum.”

After their humbling at home last weekend, Argentina appeared to be struggling again in the first half in Pretoria. But an intercept try by lock Guido Petti right on halftime and against the run of play gave the Pumas hope — and a surprise 10-8 lead at the break.

Captain Pablo Matera scored in the second half to make it 18-18 and raise the possibility of a first win in South Africa since 2015.

Jantjies’ two late penalties denied Argentina and completed a solid night for the backup No. 10.

Argentina missed crucial opportunities as well as having the dramatic late try disallowed. Wing Sebastian Cancelliere knocked on a pass a meter from the tryline early in the second half and before Nkosi’s second try. And replacement flyhalf Benjamin Urdapilleta missed a conversion and a penalty in the late stages.

At 21-18 to South Africa, Urdapilleta started the move that ended with Mensa slicing through a splintered South Africa defense with three minutes to go to score next to the posts and apparently snatch a shock victory. But the referee reviewed TV replays and decided Argentina’s Jeronimo De La Fuente obstructed South Africa prop Vincent Koch and prevented him making a tackle on Urdapilleta early in the counter.

Argentina’s disappointment was tempered by the fact it was a much-improved performance, especially up front, from Salta.

“The game could have gone to either of the teams. Unlucky for us tonight,” Matera said. “The World Cup is coming, everything is positive.

“We were stronger than the Springboks in the scrum today. Very different to last week.”

Right wing Nkosi produced two high-quality finishes to remind Erasmus of his pedigree.

His first try came when he broke clear out wide, stepped inside his marker and burst through the tackle of Pumas scrumhalf Felipe Ezcurra. Nkosi beat three defenders, one with a step, one with his strength, and the third with pace to score with a high-flying dive in the right corner early in the second half.

South Africa gave up the first half lead while on the attack after the hooter when scrumhalf Cobus Reinach threw an optimistic pass and second-rower Petti snapped it up and ran more than 50 meters the other way, the big man impressively outpacing the Springboks cover.

Matera went over with 15 minutes to go to level the scores and force South Africa to dig deep.

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