Durban – Having just watched his side slip to a 34-21 defeat to the Springboks at Kings Park on Saturday, Argentina coach Mario Ledesma was asked what they needed to do to stop the dominant Springbok pack.
His answer was priceless.
“I don’t know … maybe if they get sick or something,” Ledesma offered.
While they were far from their most clinical, the Boks managed to get over the line, and much of that was down to some immense individual performances from their forwards.
Eben Etzebeth, playing his first competitive match in over eight months, could easily have won man-of-the-match.
That honour rightly went to two-try hero Aphiwe Dyantyi, but Etzebeth was superb throughout the contest and for 80 straight minutes.
His engine simply never stopped.
Brutal runs and crunching tackles characterised Etzebeth’s performance, and his physical dominance was unmissable.
He wasn’t the only one.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was a trojan on defence and attack as Etzebeth’s lock partner, Malcolm Marx was his usual destructive self over the ball, Siya Kolisi never put a foot wrong in the No 7 jersey and Warren Whiteley was energetic and full of running in his return.
Tendai Mtawarira also emptied the tank for 51 minutes of high-powered running and scrumming, and the end result was a forwards display that the Pumas never had an answer to.
All six South African tries were scored by backline players, but there is no doubt where the battle was won.
“They had the momentum and much more quality ball than we did, especially from set piece,” Ledesma continued.
“It’s difficult against a physical team like South Africa to keep stopping them and defending and defending without having the ball.
“There was a purpose to everything they were doing, and they kept playing direct, physical footy. It’s like a dam wall and if you keep hammering and hammering, eventually the water breaks.”
Ledesma believes that there is no side in world rugby with more physicality than this Bok outfit.
“They are one of the best teams in the world and the most physical team in the world by far,” he said.
“We knew that they were targeting us in the rucks. They were playing Louw, Kolisi and Marx and they are all world class over the ball. We knew what was coming but we couldn’t handle some of it.
“It’s really difficult to defend like that. I thought out defence was pretty good, but when you don’t have the ball it’s difficult.
When you have one of the biggest and toughest packs around, it’s a hard job to stop it but we will try next weekend.”
The Boks will leave for Argentina with a 28-man squad on Monday and they will play the Pumas in Salta on Saturday.
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