Five things we learned...
August 17, 2013
South African supporters hold a portrait of former president Nelson Mandela on a day when his life was being celebrated in Johannesburg © Getty Images
South Africa opened their Rugby Championship account with a crushing 73-13 victory over Argentina in Johannesburg. But what did we learn from the match and how will it impact on the battle for southern hemisphere supremacy? ESPNscrum offers some thoughts...
Boks mean business
The Pumas may have been painfully poor but there can be no doubting the quality of the Springboks. It is worth remembering this was their first run out since June but they were brutally efficient in delivering a performance worthy of the occasion - a celebration of the life of former President Nelson Mandela - and it would appear that Madiba brings out the best in them. New Zealand may have put down an impressive marker against Australia earlier in the day but they will be wary of their old rivals following this showing and the All Blacks' date in Johannesburg in the final round of the competition already looks like a title-decider.
A painful lesson for Pumas
Second album syndrome has troubled even the most creative of artists and it is a problem that Argentina will be all too aware of this evening. The Pumas stunned many by more than holding their own on their debut in the Rugby Championship last year when they held South Africa to a draw (and should have perhaps won), pushed Australia to the brink twice and shackled the all-conquering New Zealand (for a half at least). Hopes were high of even greater success this year with their first victory within their sights - but in this kind of form that will remain a dream for some times. Results and performances like this do the Pumas and the Rugby Championship no favours at all.
Morne the master
Springboks captain Jean de Villiers hit the headlines earlier this week by suggesting the South African Rugby Union should revise their policy of selecting overseas-based players because their Super Rugby sides were suffering from a talent drain. He may have been misquoted but there is little chance of the Bok selectors taking his advice on board with Stade Francais-bound fly-half Morne Steyn in this kind of form. The in-form playmaker landed 16 of 17 kicks at goal for a 28-point haul and his near-faultless form with the boot turns the screw and delivers as many body blows as a dominant Springboks pack.
Longing for Lobbe
Argentina lacked direction and desire for long periods of this clash but most of all they lacked Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe who is currently sidelined with injury a calf injury. The Pumas' forward, and their regular captain, is so often the driving force behind his team with his all-action approach to the game and an enviable hunger to succeed the envy of the rugby world. Coach Santiago Phelan will be praying that he makes a swift recovery in time for the return clash in Mendoza next weekend but as good and influential as Lobbe is, he is not worth 60 points. The Mendoza masses will also be required to offer a constant reminder to the players of what is expected from when they pull on the Pumas' shirt.
Habana has Hirotoki in his sights
South Africa winger Bryan Habana - another Bok heading overseas - grabbed one of his side's nine tries and if it were not for a couple of dodgy passes and some questionable handling he would have been celebrating matching the hat-trick by All Blacks winger Ben Smith earlier in the day. It was his 51st for his country and not only extended his lead at the top of the Boks' try-scoring list but turned up the heat on former Japan winger Hirotoki Onozawa who sits above him in fourth in the all-time stats - and now just four scores ahead of him. That goal is well within his grasp in the next couple of months especially with the Boks in this mood.
South Africa's Bryan Habana stretches the Argentina defence on his way to his 51st Test try © Getty Images
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
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