Dream debut for Hendrikse as South Africa beat Argentina

Gqeberha (South Africa) (AFP) –


Jaden Hendrikse, called into the matchday 23 just hours before kick-off, came off the bench to score and earn South Africa a bonus-point 32-12 win over Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The scrum-half dived over in the corner to secure the third try in Gqeberha that left the Springboks level with New Zealand on five points at the top of the table after the first round.

South Africa won the southern hemisphere title in 2019, but were unable to defend it last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hendrikse woke on Saturday believing he would watch the match from the stand at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the eastern Cape city formerly called Port Elizabeth.

But when a hip niggle ruled out Herschel Jantjies, Hendrikse took his place on the bench and came on seven minutes from time in place of Cobus Reinach.

After scoring two tries within 18 minutes of the kick-off through Reinach and winger Aphelele Fassi, the world champion Springboks were running out of time to claim a third and an extra point.

Then, replacements Marco van Staden and Morne Steyn combined to give the 21-year-old scrum-half a fairytale start as a Springbok.

Van Staden charged for the line and when he was held up, the ball moved to Steyn, whose pass sent Hendrikse across the tryline to seal a clinical 20-point victory.

Scoring completed a remarkable turnaround for Hendrikse, who did not make the 46-man Springbok squad chosen in June for Tests against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions.

He was then red-carded for elbowing Wales full-back Liam Williams when playing for his franchise, the Sharks, in a heavy loss to the Lions.

- 'Challenge was different' -

But after serving a three-match suspension, he caught the eye of Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber and was called up last week as cover after first-choice scrum-half Faf de Klerk was injured.

It was a clinical rather than spectacular victory for South Africa, who rested 10 of the team that started a series-winning victory over the Lions in Cape Town last weekend.

"We worked hard, but it was tough today. The challenge was different to what we faced last week. It was a bit more physical," said Springboks skipper and flanker Siya Kolisi.

"Argentina give you challenges at the breakdown and in general play. They are street smart. Both teams play a similar game."

"We have been working really hard as a whole squad. The guys who did not get opportunities against the Lions worked really hard to help us.

"For instance, Elto (Elton Jantjies) played like (Lions fly-half) Dan Biggar (in practice) and that helped us a lot. It was good to see a couple of guys getting opportunities."

Argentina captain and hooker Julian Montoya said: "It was not the start we wanted. We are playing against a great team and they are very clinical.

"We will have to work hard next week on the setpiece and they were better than us in the kick chase. Physically, we were with them and, when we were on the front foot, we were with them."

The Springboks built a 18-3 advantage on 24 minutes thanks to the two tries, with Fassi displaying brilliant handling skills for the second, and a conversion and two penalties from fly-half Jantjies.

South Africa led 21-9 by half-time with Jantjies kicking another penalty for the hosts while rival playmaker Nicolas Sanchez slotted three for the Pumas.

More penalties from Jantjies (two) and Sanchez were the only second-half scores until Hendrikse allowed South Africa to join New Zealand, who hammered Australia 57-22 in Auckland earlier, at the top.