In the first of three matches between the two nations in the build-up to the IRB Junior World Championship in June, South Africa's Under 20s ran in seven tries in a 51-19 win over Argentina Under 20s at the Markotter Stadium in Stellenbosch on Saturday.
The Baby Boks needed all of their resolve to come from behind and deal with a physical Argentine effort.
After 19 minutes, South Africa's pressure took its toll as a backline move caught the Argentina defence napping out wide and outside centre Patrick Howard went over near the corner flag. Fly half Tony Jantjies converted from the touchline.
South Africa battled somewhat to cope with the strong forward surges from Argentina and twice in a hectic eight-minute spell the visitors managed to snatch tries through fly half Sebastian Poet and number 8 Facundo Isa. In between the two Argentine tries, Jantjies landed a penalty as the vistors led 12-10.
On the stroke of half time, however, South Africa number 8 Fabian Booysen crashed over for an unconverted try giving the hosts a 15-12 lead at the break.
Indiscipline proves costly
In confronting the hosts head-on Argentina's physical approach was always in danger of boiling over. Early on in the game second row Guillermann Cruz was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle that ended right wing JJ Engelbrecht's match, stretchered off after only three minutes, and just a few minutes into the second half loosehead prop Gargia Botta also saw yellow.
Jantjies converted that penalty chance to stretch the home side's lead to six points and when Marius Schmidt and Jan Serfontein scored the Baby Boks' third and fourth tries in quick succession the lead was 30-12.
Argentine indiscipline continued to be a problem and on the hour mark Cruz received his second yellow card to be sent off for the remainder of the match. Sensing their chance to close out the match, the Baby Boks wasted no wasted time and a try by Marzauk Maarman followed from a 25-metre rolling maul took the score to 37-12.
There was some fightback from the visitors when Pumitas centre Brex Ignacio went over for a converted try in the 67th minute, but Griesel rounded off the scoring in the match with two tries in the final three minutes to make the final score 51-19.
“It was a pity that the match wasn’t always played in the right spirit because these matches could be of great help to the coaches, and that’s why I was disappointed," said South Africa Under 20 coach Dawie Theron.
“It was pleasing to see the improvements in the second half and the players will now have a fair idea of the level of play that will be expected.
“For Tuesday’s match I'll be running with a few Under 19s and they too saw what’s in store for them from the Argentines. One thing’s sure is that they'll know it will be very physical, but I’m pleased to say we have loads of talent at Under 19 level,” added Theron.
Argentina coach Facundo Soler added: “We gave away too many penalties and have to play a cleaner game at the World Championships, where we can’t afford to play with 14 players for most of the game."
“It is always very hard to play the Baby Boks in South Africa, the setting is completely different during the actual tournament. This is very important training to come back in June and aim at winning the world title. For now we will have to watch the game over again and see what our main strengths have been to work on them for Tuesday’s game, and we will definitely have to improve our tackling.”
The third and final match between the two nations will be played next Saturday at the Danie Craven Stadium.
South Africa Under 20: Tries: Patrick Howard, Fabian Booysen, Marius Schmidt, Jan Serfontein, Marzauk Maarman, Abrie Griesel (2). Conversions: Tony Jantjies (5). Penalties: Jantjies (2)
Argentina Under 20: Tries: Poet Sebastian, Isa Facundo, Brex Ignacio. Conversions: Sebastian (2)