Bounce back in Springboks' step

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 12:00am

South Africans escape a trip to the plate competition with hard-fought victory over Argentina

South Africa leapt straight back into cup contention with one of the hardest-fought wins of the tournament when they defeated group favourites Argentina 12-5, thanks to a late try by captain Jaco Pretorius.

The Springboks needed nothing less than victory to have a chance of joining the big boys in the cup and they responded to the pressure-cooker situation in admirable fashion to join previously unbeaten Argentina through to the last eight.

The win also saw South Africa go through as group winners at the expense of unheralded Tunisia, who had shocked the South Africans on Friday, but did their cup hopes no favours when they lost their final pool encounter against Kenya.

South Africa coach Paul Treu was a relieved man after he watched his side notch their most important victory after Danwell Demas first touched down and Pretorius ran through the Argentine defence to seal victory. Argentina's Santiago Gomez Cora scored his side's lone try.

'I am very happy with our performance. I am not so happy with our play, but our performance was good. It's a win and I am going to take the win,' said Treu.

'It was important to get another win under our belt to go through to the quarter-finals. It didn't really matter if Tunisia had won or lost, because if they had won their match [against Kenya], we would have gone through on points difference. Even before the start of the match, I could really see that the boys were focused and they had a certain confidence.

'It was important for us to keep our momentum and close them down and not let them have a chance for even a second. At half-time, I told my guys to keep their cool and just to stick to the game plan.

'Even when it was 12-5, there was only 10 seconds left and even if they had scored another try, they would have only drawn with us. It didn't really matter in the end. It was important to get our confidence back before our captain scored the winning try,' said Treu. 'We play Australia in the Cup quarter-finals. We have beaten them quite a few times before but they beat us 26-0 last time in Los Angeles. It's going to be important for the guys to go out there and just use the opportunity.'

Argentina coach Hernan Rouco Oliva was not surprised that South Africa had put up such a fine showing against his side, who had earlier defeated Uruguay 33-19.

'This is not a surprise to us because South Africa are a tremendous team. The match was very close and they scored two tries against our solitary try.

'We play Fiji in the cup quarter-finals, which will be a very difficult match for us because Fiji play very good sevens rugby. South Africa played more in our territory. That's the key point of the match. The South African defence was very strong.'

Tunisia manager Mohamed Sahraoui was a forlorn figure after South Africa's victory, which put paid to his team's hopes of joining the tournament's elite in their first-ever World Cup finals.

'The referees made a lot of mistakes [in the match between South Africa and Argentina]. But all referees make mistakes and we can't blame the referee. We are playing in the Plate [against Portugal] and we must stay focused. I hope we get something out of this tournament, having gone through weeks of training and sacrifices.'