Playmaker Patrick Lambie and winger Lwazi Mvovo impressed as South Africa ended a four-Test losing streak by outplaying Argentina 26-12 in a World Cup warm-up in Buenos Aires.
Victory in front of a capacity 50,000 Estadio Jose Amalfitani crowd on Saturday was particularly sweet for the Springboks after a humiliating 12-point Rugby Championship home loss to the Pumas last weekend.
It was the final warm-up game for both countries before the September 18 World Cup kick-off in England and Lambie and Mvovo raised their hands for starting places.
Lambie is competing with Handre Pollard for the key fly-half role and Mvovo is challenging JP Pietersen and Cornal Hendricks for the right-wing slot.
Flawless goal-kicking enabled Lambie to convert tries by wingers Bryan Habana and Mvovo, kick three penalties and drop a goal for a 16-point contribution.
Coach Heyneke Meyer must also have been pleased with the general play of Lambie, who mixed tactical kicking, running and passing to the continuous discomfort of the South Americans.
“As cool as a cucumber,” was how 1995 World Cup-winning fly-half Joel Stransky summarised the display of the playmaker, who missed most of the Super Rugby season through injury.
Pollard, who started in losses to Australia and New Zealand last month and Argentina last weekend, was booed off the Durban pitch when substituted soon after a kick-off went directly to touch.
Lambie and Pollard are sure to be part of the 31-man World Cup squad to be named on August 28, and so will Mvovo after his brilliant try gave South Africa a 17-point advantage 30 minutes into the first half.
He caught a basketball-style flick from No.8 Schalk Burger in midfield, dodged three would-be tacklers as he cut inside and when held just short of the line, dotted the ball down with an outstretched arm.
Mvovo, who can play on either wing or at full-back, has been in and out of the national squad for some seasons, spending a lot more time on the bench than on the field.
He replaced Jesse Kriel, whose defensive frailties were brutally exposed by three-try Juan Imhoff in Durban, and kept the Argentine winger under wraps.
Injury-plagued Willem Alberts, a ball-carrying flanker known as the ‘bone collector’, played his first Test since mid-2014 and came through unscathed.
Meyer was relieved after South Africa made it 10 victories and one draw from 11 Tests at various Argentine venues.
He had taken a media lashing after the home loss to the Pumas and national labour umbrella body Cosatu demanded he be fired for not choosing enough black stars with 13 whites starting in Durban.
Four blacks — full-back Zane Kirchner, Mvovo, Habana and loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane — started in the Argentine capital.
“I am proud that we did not concede a try away from home in a harsh environment. A lot of players put up their hands and came through today,” Meyer told reporters.
“Although we did not finish all our try-scoring opportunities, this was a big step in the right direction. We also know a lot of hard work lies ahead.
“With a number of top players returning after injuries, I am positive we will pick a very strong squad.”
South Africa open their World Cup Pool B campaign on September 19 against Japan and Argentina tackle title-holders New Zealand in Pool C one day later. – Agence France-Presse