What's hot and what's not from the third-place play-off at the Olympic Stadium
Tries from JP Pietersen and Eben Etzebeth helped South Africa to a third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup. Argentina dominated possession and territory during this Bronze final, but it was the Springboks who dominated on the scoreboard, kicking for goal when the opportunity presented itself and withstanding waves of determined Pumas attack. The biggest cheer came in the 82nd minute, though, when the Boks’ defence was finally broken, Juan Pablo Orlandi touching down from close range as a consolation.
Flat Pumas – It’s rare to see a team play as close to the gain-line as Argentina do. They were making passes while standing practically chest to chest with their South African opponents and it was great to watch. Argentina’s ability to play in such confined spaces meant the Springboks didn’t know what they were going to do – in fairness, the Pumas probably didn’t know at times either!
Fond farewells – This was the last time we’ll see the likes of Victor Matfield and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe in Test action, and it was fitting that they both received warm rounds of applause as they left the field in the second half. They have both given huge amounts for their country and for rugby.
Santiago Cordero – The 21-year-old wing has been a real bright spark during this World Cup and he did the same in this match. At times he was like a pinball darting in and out and around defenders, looking for a slither of space to slink through. He needs to work on keeping hold of the ball – his turnover stats are unlikely to make pleasant reading – but his willingness to run the ball from anywhere is refreshing and suits the more attack-minded game plan the Pumas now prefer.
Atmosphere – The vibe at this stadium hasn’t matched other World Cup venues for noise and colour, but for this game the atmosphere was particularly flat. Okay, it was the third-place play-off, a match that doesn’t bring out the passion and emotion of a decisive pool match or World Cup final, but even taking that into account it was hard to tell if the crowd were engaged in events on the field.
The Argentina fans – standouts throughout the tournament – did their best, bursting into chants and jumping up and down for a few seconds at a time, but it was not enough to spark the rest of the audience into life. South Africa’s decision to kick for goal rather than go for tries from penalties didn’t help matters. In fact, their attitude resulted in boos.
One discussion in the press box focused on whether a Plate final between, say, Japan and Georgia would have been a better alternative. Something for World Rugby to ponder before Japan 2019.
Habana’s record chase – Just one try. That’s all Bryan Habana needed to hit 16 and break clear of Jonah Lomu to become the outright top try-scorer in World Cup history. It just wasn’t falling for him in the first half, though. South Africa’s first try after six minutes came on the opposite wing, JP Pietersen going over. He touched down himself four minutes later after a chip over the defence, but the TMO ruled that Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino had got the ball down first.
He then pounced on the ball at a ruck and burst clear but was brought down by an Argentina tackle. Handre Pollard broke in the Pumas’ 22 and sent a pass out wide to Habana but he knocked on. He picked up another loose ball and chipped ahead but was penalised for pulling back Nicolas Sanchez in the chase. He rushed up for the intercept in the closing minutes of the first half but missed and Argentina broke into South Africa’s 22.
Come the second half, the ball just didn’t go his way – clearly some things just aren’t meant to be.
32 – The number of tackles missed by South Africa, nearly double that of Argentina (17).
14 – The number of turnovers won by South Africa compared to four by Argentina. Francois Louw made five turnovers on his own!
20 – The number of tackles made by Eben Etzebeth, more than any other player. The top five tacklers in this game were all Springboks.
564 – The number of metres made by Argentina compared to South Africa’s 405.
South Africa: W le Roux (P Lambie 64); JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D De Allende, B Habana (J Serfontein 67); H Pollard, R Pienaar (R Paige 77; T Mtawarira (T Nyakane ht), B du Plessis (A Strauss 48), F Malherbe (J du Plessis 61-69), E Etzebeth, V Matfield (capt, L de Jager 63), F Louw (S Burger 61-66), S Burger (W Alberts 53), D Vermeulen.
Tries (2): Pietersen, Etzebeth. Cons: Pollard. Pens: Pollard 3.
Argentina: L Amorosino; S Cordero, M Moroni, J de la Fuente (S Gonzalez Iglesias 71), H Agulla (JP Socino 58); N Sanchez (capt), T Cubelli (M Landajo 53); J Figallo (L Noguera Paz 15-22, 61-64, 71), J Montoya (S Garcia Botta 77), R Herrera (JP Orlandi 55), M Alemanno (G Petti 47), T Lavanini, J Ortega Desio, JM Fernandez Lobbe (F Isa 53), JM Leguizamon.
Try: Orlandi. Con: Sanchez. Pen: Sanchez. DG: Sanchez.
Yellow card: Cubelli (5)
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Man of the Match: Damian De Allende