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Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 3:17:01 AM
Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 3:17:47 AM
by mark gleeson
Argentina's Juan Martin Hernandez (C) takes a dive during the Rugby Championship test match against South Africa at the soccer city stadium in Soweto, August 17, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa ran in nine tries as they overwhelmed Argentina 73-13 to ensure an easier than expected start to their Rugby Championship campaign at Soccer City on Saturday.
The Springboks bettered the competition record for the biggest winning margin and their own 16-year-old mark for the most points scored in a match with a strong statement of their potential in the four-nation, southern hemisphere competition.
They were rarely tested in the set pieces and at the breakdown, despite fears about Argentina's growing promise, and ran riot in open play in a one-sided second half performance.
The tries included a record-extending 51st for winger Bryan Habana while flyhalf Morne Steyn slotted over eight conversions and four penalties for 28 points and missed only one kick.
The match started with stoic defence from both teams as they exchanged penalties that saw the Springboks 9-6 up midway through the first half.
But consistent pressure saw referee Chris Pollock award a penalty try to the home team after Argentine hooker Eusebio Guinazu slapped down the ball to intercept an almost certain score in the 29th minute.
A quick counter attack try from JJ Engelbrecht and another Steyn penalty ensured a 26-6 halftime lead, with Argentina's cause not helped by the loss of two players to yellow cards at crucial junctures.
The second half was a pure romp as the South Africans easily cut their way through the Argentines, adding tries with regularity.
"We were broken everywhere," said candid Argentina coach Santiago Phelan. "We need to grow up, obviously losing by this kind of score is not good for any team."
Adriaan Strauss pushed over from close-in after 46 minutes and Willem Alberts did much the same eight minutes later.
South Africa captain Jean de Villiers intercepted a loose pass at the back within two minutes and soon after that it was his break through the middle that led to a try for replacement scrumhalf Fourie du Preez on his return to the team.
Habana went over a minute later, followed by tries for Duane Vermeulen and Bismark du Plessis.
"We were looking for a special performance, but we need to take cognisance that we still have five more games to go," said South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer.
Argentina scored with the last move of the match, a small consolation for captain Felipe Contepomi who scored all their points.
Despite South Africa's comfortable victory, that try was irritating for their perfectionist coach Meyer, who told reporters: "I'm quite cross about that last try, it detracted from a clinical performance."
The Springboks' win in the first round followed a similarly impressive 47-29 victory for New Zealand in Australia earlier on Saturday at the start of the competition.
(Editing by Rex Gowar and Josh Reich)
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