Pollard propels SA to the top of the rugby championship

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FLY HALF Handre Pollard scored 19 points as South Africa beat Argentina 29-10 at Gqeberha on Saturday to take a four-point lead over New Zealand in the rugby championship.

Pollard, 27, netted five first-half penalties for a 15-3 halftime lead and converted tries from winger Makazole Mapimpi and hooker Malcolm Marx.

Flanker Pablo Matera scored a post-hooter try for the Pumas, which opening half Nicolas Sanchez converted after coming off the bench in the second half for Domingo Miotti, who took a penalty.

The Rugby World Cup winners’ 19-point victory was almost identical to that of last weekend when they beat the Pumas by 20 points in the first round.

But while the previous win also gave a bonus point for scoring three tries, the Springboks failed in the second round as they only scored two.

“Argentina are very passionate. We stuck to our game plan but they defended well, we made mistakes and they played well in the rosters,” said Springboks captain and flanker Siya Kolisi.

“I’m very happy with the win. Obviously we wanted the bonus point but good luck to them because they defended well and got the last try,” he added.

Argentina gave forwards Rodrigo Bruni and Tomas Lavanini a yellow card and, in the first half alone, conceded 13 penalties.

“Our discipline was very, very bad. Too many penalties, they continued to score points, points, points,” said Pumas skipper Julian Montoya.

“We have to decide what we did wrong and keep working. We finished with a try but we didn’t do what we wanted. We played too much in our half,” added the hooker.

Both matches took place in the eastern city of Cape Town, formerly known as Port Elizabeth due to the coronavirus situation in the South American nation.

Australia were due to host New Zealand next weekend in the other second-round game, but the All Blacks withdrew on Friday amid uncertainty over Covid-19 travel restrictions.

South Africa and Argentina were planning to share a chartered jet to Australia on Sunday, but that was put on hold pending a revised decision from organizers, SANZAAR, on venues and dates for the matches.

The future of Southern Hemisphere competition this season became uncertain when New Zealand unilaterally decided to withdraw from the game in Perth.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was “angry” at the move and Rugby Australia chief Andy Marinos said he only heard about it from the media.

Tournament bound for Europe?

Amid the uncertainty triggered by the pandemic, options include setting up dual programs at other Australian sites, South Africa or Europe.

There has been speculation that Cardiff, Dublin, London and Paris could host matches – a commercially attractive proposition with the likelihood of huge crowds.

There is a precedent for playing in Europe with Argentina who “hosted” Australia in London in 2016, while, five years earlier, the Crusaders and Sharks played a Super Rugby match in the English capital.

While South Africa has successfully hosted an eight-game British and Irish Lions tour, which ended this month, crowds have been banned from sporting events since early 2019 due to Covid-19.

South African Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla admitted this week that a third wave of the pandemic remains “stubbornly among us” in the worst-hit African country with 78,983 deaths.

Civil unrest in the republic last month, sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for avoiding a corruption probe, has left 342 dead and could count against South Africa as a host. – AFP


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