SOWETO, South Africa (AFP) – South Africa scored nine tries and fly-half Morne Steyn kicked 28 points as they crushed Argentina 73-13 Saturday in a Rugby Championship first round romp.
The triumph against opponents who had two forwards sin binned took the Springboks to the top of the table on points difference after world champions New Zealand won 47-29 in Australia earlier.
The Soweto Test took a decisive turn on the half-hour mark when Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazu was yellow carded and South Africa scored 14 points in four minutes en route to a 26-6 half-time lead.
Demoralised Argentina collapsed in the second half as the home team scored a further seven tries before skipper Felipe Contepomi claimed a final-minute consolation try.
The match was the highlight of the Nelson Mandela Sport Day, an inaugural event in honour of the hospitalised former president that also featured the national football team.
A scrappy start to the game saw Argentina make a crooked line-out throw and a crooked scrum feed and South Africa penalised for a knock-on.
But a couple of successful penalty kicks from Steyn inside the first 10 minutes gave the Springboks a six-pont lead and soothed nerves.
Argentina were struggling at the line-outs and suffered a major blow when experienced lock Patricio Albacete limped off to be replaced by Julio Farias Cabello.
Veteran centre Contepomi got the Pumas on the scoreboard with a couple of penalties and there was also another from Steyn to leave South Africa 9-6 ahead after 30 minutes.
The Test took a dramatic turn then with Guinazu yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on, which earned the Springboks a penalty try, and centre JJ Engelbrecht breaking clear for another five pointer.
Steyn converted both scores and within four minutes the Springboks were 17 points ahead against opponents forced to play the rest of the opening half a man short.
Argentina were struggling to get out of their half and conceding frequent penalties, one of which Steyn booted over to give the green and gold a 20-point cushion by the break.
It took only six minutes of the second half for South Africa to push even further ahead as hooker Adriaan Strauss broke from a driving maul and dotted down for Steyn to convert.
The Pumas, who were generally competitive in their maiden southern hemisphere championship last year, fell apart and the yellow carding of No. 8 Leonardo Senatore for a tip tackle spelt further disaster.
Flank Willem Alberts scored the bonus-point fourth try and centre Jean de Villiers, scrum-half Fourie du Preez, left-wing Bryan Habana, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen and replacement hooker Bismarck du Plessis also dotted down.
Steyn missed only one the conversions as he lifted his personal tally to 28 points and a nine-point lead over Australian Christian Lealiifano in the individual scoring charts.
Contepomi, leading the team in the absence of injured No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, went over in the final minute for the lone Argentine try, which he converted.