Updated: Sunday, 17 August 2014 09:09 | By Agence France-Presse

Meyer hails young Springboks after close call

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed newcomers Handre Pollard and Lood de Jager after starting their Rugby Championship campaign Saturday with a laboured 13-6 home win over Argentina.


Meyer hails young Springboks after close call

South African players Jannie du Plessis (L), Bakkies Botha (R) and Ruan Pienaar (C) battle for the ball with Argentina's Ramiro Herrera (L) and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe during the match in Pretoria on August 16, 2014 - by Gordon Harnols

It was a Test the Springboks were expected to win convincingly, but monsoon-like conditions put paid to any hopes of a try fest at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria.

The result gave South Africa an early lead in the southern hemisphere championship with four points, two more than Australia and title-holders New Zealand, who drew 12-12 in Sydney.

Argentina collected a losing bonus point and are relishing the chance to tackle the Springboks again next weekend in Salta.

Northern Bulls fly-half Pollard and Central Cheetahs lock De Jager debuted in a 55-6 Port Elizabeth romp over Scotland two months ago.

And Meyer liked what he saw when they got a second chance to stake claims for places in the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.

"We had a 20-year-old (Pollard) running play at fly-half and a 21-year-old (De Jager) calling the line-outs and they did very well," said the coach.

"New centre Damian de Allende was another to show the character I expected. A lot of the guys in the team today are 23 years or younger."

Meyer was unconcerned about the close call against a nation they humiliated 73-13 in the corresponding fixture last year.

"I will be happy to keep on winning -- even if it is by one point in every match. That is what rugby is all about," stressed the former Bulls handler.

He had hoped for a running game to start the Championship season, but torrential rain and 15 stubborn Pumas put paid to that.

"Argentina are not a continuity team -- they are a contesting team. It is not always easy to get a flow to your match.

"We played well for 30 minutes, but did not get the points we deserved and that affected us.

"Argentina had a better kicking game than us, but luckily Willie le Roux was excellent."

Flank Francois Louw was the official man of the match, but Le Roux must have been a close contender after a number of superb catches off high kicks.

Argentina have yet to win in 13 Championship outings since a 2012 debut, but hooker and new skipper Agustin Creevy believes history could be created in Salta next Saturday.

"Our people will be backing us and I am hopeful after a good showing in Pretoria. I am pleased with the performance, but sad that we lost.

"The media often praise our forwards, but the backs also did a superb job against the Springboks.

"When South Africa scored an early try I called the team together and we vowed there would not be a repeat of last year when we conceded nine tries."

Coach Daniel Hourcade, who replaced Santiago Phelan after the six-loss 2013 Championship campaign, said he was both proud and sad.

"After a week of sun, the last thing we expected on match day was torrential rain. The team made me so proud, but we desperately wanted to win." 

Golden Lions No. 8 and skipper Warren Whiteley will replace injured flanker Willem Alberts in the Springboks squad that leaves Johannesburg Sunday for Buenos Aires.

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