Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer pulled no punches when asked where things went wrong for his team as they drew the second Test in The Castle Rugby Championship, against Argentina in Mendoza, by 16-16.
The Springboks fought back from a half-time deficit of 3-13 to pull level when Morné Steyn converted Frans Steyn’s charge down try in the 66th minute of a Test that was played in front of 40,000 loud Argentinean fans. Morné Steyn added three more penalty goals.
The Pumas scored their only try in the 17th minute when Santiago Fernandez crossed following a period of sustained pressure in the Springboks’ half. Fullback Martin Rodriguez added 11 points through a conversion and three penalty goals.
The Boks paid for ill-discipline, especially early in the game, but finished stronger although they could not pull it through.
“Firstly, all credit to Argentina. We were not good enough and they played very well, but we let our country and ourselves down tonight,” said Meyer.
“Our problems started at the breakdown, where we could not get any quick ball and when we did at stages, I thought we played good rugby only to lose the ball in good positions on the field.
“We have a lot of inexperience and youngsters, but it’s not an excuse. For a lot of these guys it was their first Test away from home, but we talk a lot about mental toughness and we needed to make the step up.
“We always knew they were going to come out hard at us and that it was going to be very tough, but you can’t afford to give away all those penalties we did early in the game. That was unacceptable.”
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said it was frustrating day out in the middle.
“Every time we got in their half, they gave away a penalty. We didn’t get a lot of ball out wide but when we did we made some metres. However, it was one of those games where we never got into it and it ended in a draw,” said De Villiers.
Tiaan Liebenberg replaced Adriaan Strauss late in the game to win his first Springbok cap, almost five years after making his debut for South Africa, against the Barbarians in London at the end of 2007.
The Boks travel back to South Africa on Sunday and will arrive in the country on Monday morning. They will reconvene in Johannesburg on Thursday to start preparing for the Australasian leg of The Castle Rugby Championship.