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Springboks claim third in World Cup as greats of the game wave goodbye

Argentina attacked as ambitiously as ever but couldn’t find the finishes they needed.

South Africa 24

Argentina 13

Murray Kinsella reports from Olympic Park

SOUTH AFRICA EARNED third place in the World Cup with a convincing win over an Argentina side that lacked a clincial edge at crucial moments, but this fixture was perhaps more notable for the men who said goodbye to Test rugby.

Bryan Habana is beaten to the ball by Lucas Gonzalez Bryan Habana was left frustrated as he came up short of a new RWC record. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The great Springbok lock Victor Matfield waved as he departed in the final quarter, the 38-year-old signalling the end to his remarkable international career. On in his place bounded 22-year-old Lood de Jager, who is the future alongside Eben Etzebeth, a try scorer here.

Shortly before Matfield’s exit, Pumas back row Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe had been given an ovation as he was subbed off, his exhaustion clear after putting every fibre of his huge work rate into this impressive World Cup campaign.

Schalk Burger – who hasn’t confirmed any plans to retire from Test rugby – followed Fernández Lobbe off within minutes, he too being afforded the heartiest of applause. Almost typically, the teak-tough flanker was needed back on the pitch soon after as a blood replacement, his effort undiminished.

Three men who, it could be argued, are all-time greats of the game – even if Burger will be remembered for a gouge on Luke Fitzgerald by many. It was rather unfitting that Matfield and Fernández Lobbe’s Test careers came to a close on this stage.

Third-place play-offs are a strange thing and though this game ended in the deafening noise of the brilliant Argentina fans, it was a disappointing spectacle overall.

That said, it was pleasing that the contest concluded with the Pumas scoring a deserved try. Replacement front row Juan Pablo Orlandi was the man to dot down in the final minute, bringing a rousing explosion of joy from what seemed like the entire stadium.

Daniel Hourcade’s Pumas played with their usual attacking intent and produced big breaks for the likes of Tomás Cubelli and Juan Manuel Leguizamón, but their finishing ability let them down again. It had been a similar story in last weekend’s semi-final defeat to Australia.

Victor Matfield goes off Matfield's Springboks' career ended this evening. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Springboks were more efficient in their use of possession, although Bryan Habana will reflect on a number of missed opportunities to set a new record for tries in World Cups. He remains level with Jonah Lomu on 15 after a performance in which his handling skills let him down.

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Instead, it was JP Pietersen on the other wing who dotted down for the Boks’ first try, squeezing into the right corner in the first half after Ruan Pienaar and Willie le Roux moved the ball wide.

Second row Etzebeth scored the second try in the left corner after half time and it was Habana who provided the scoring pass. It looked suspiciously like a forward pass, but as for Pietersen’s try the TMO only checked the grounding.

Heyneke Meyer’s side weren’t afraid to take shots at goal with their penalties, of which there were many. Irish referee John Lacey drew the ire of the Pumas’ support with his strict demands on Hourcade’s men and a first-half sin binning for Tomás Cubelli.

A largely forgettable occasion this bronze final, but at least the Pumas finished with a flourish.

South Africa scorers:

Tries: JP Pietersen, Eben Etzebeth

Conversions: Handré Pollard (1)

Penalties: Handré Pollard (4)

Argentina scorers:

Tries: Juan Pablo Orlandi

Conversions: Nicolas Sánchez

Penalties: Nicolas Sánchez (1)

Drop goals: Nicolas Sánchez (1)

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Patrick Lambie ’69); JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damien de Allende, Bryan Habana (Jan Serfontein ’66); Handré Pollard, Ruan Pienaar (Rudy Paige ’77); Tendai Mtawarira (Trevor Nyakane ‘ht), Bismarck du Plessis (Adriaan Strauss ’49), Frans Malherbe (Jannie du Plessis ’60); Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (capt.) (Lood de Jager ’62); Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (Willem Alberts ’53) (Burger ’61), Duane Vermeulen.

ARGENTINA: Lucas González Amorosino; Santiago Cordero, Matías Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente (Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias), Horacio Agulla (Juan Pablo Socino); Nicolas Sánchez, Tomás Cubelli (sin bin – ’6 to ’16) (Martin Landajo ’53); Juan Figallo (Lucas Noguera Paz, blood – ’17 to ’22, permanent ’62), Julian Montoya (Santiago Garcia Botta), Ramiro Herrera (Juan Pablo Orlandi ’55); Matías Alemanno (Guido Petti ’47), Tomás Lavanini; Javier Ortega Desio, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe (Facundo Isa ’53), Juan Manuel Leguizamón.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland).

Attendance: 55,925.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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