South Africa beats Argentina but Rugby Championship in limbo

·3-min read

GQEBERHA, South Africa (AP) — Amid confusion over the future, South Africa beat Argentina 29-10 in the Rugby Championship on Saturday while the remainder of the southern hemisphere tournament was in limbo after New Zealand's decision to cancel games in its country because of a new COVID-19 outbreak.

The Springboks' two tries came early in the second half at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium through wing Makazole Mapimpi and hooker Malcolm Marx, although the home team was already in control at 15-3 by the time Mapimpi crossed in the left corner for the first of the tries.

Flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked five penalties in the first half to give the Boks their ascendancy. South Africa added the two converted tries in the second half but didn't manage a try-scoring bonus point despite having dominance and another 30 minutes to get a third try.

And it was Argentina who had the final say when flanker Pablo Matera swiveled out of a tackle and crashed over five minutes after the full-time hooter had sounded. That gave the Pumas their only try in two games in South Africa in the space of a week. South Africa won 32-12 at the same stadium seven days earlier in the first round of the Rugby Championship.

Saturday's match in Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth, was the only scheduled second-round game of the weekend.

The world champion Springboks came off a series victory over the British and Irish Lions to make a winning start to the Rugby Championship but it's unclear where they will go next. Both the South Africa and Argentina squads were due to leave for Australasia on Sunday but those plans will likely be put on hold while tournament organizer SANZAAR decides where the remaining nine games of this year's Rugby Championship will be played.

New Zealand was meant to travel to Australia to play the Wallabies in Perth in a round two match next Saturday but has pulled out of that fixture and also canceled its two home tests against the Springboks in September and October after new virus cases put the country into lockdown. The New Zealand government said the South African team wouldn't be allowed to enter the country.

South Africa was due to play two games in Australia and two in New Zealand, while Argentina also has two games against the Wallabies and two against the All Blacks to play.

A virus outbreak that spread from Australia to New Zealand prompted New Zealand's new lockdown and threw the Rugby Championship fixtures in doubt. The re-imposing of quarantine rules in some states in Australia also threatened to complicate games there.

South Africa has offered to host the rest of the tournament — if it gets permission from its government — although no fans are currently allowed at any sports events in South Africa. It is also still in a winter wave of virus cases and regularly recording more than 10,000 new infections daily.

However, there are no mandatory quarantine rules currently in place in South Africa for foreign visitors.

In another option, reports say Rugby Championship games might be held in Europe, where crowds could be allowed.


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