Touring Argentina to watch the Boks play soon becomes much less about the rugby, says Tank Lanning in his eNCA.com column, and more about the best braais on earth, good beer, glorious red wine, and great people …
If you get a chance to follow the Boks when they next play in Argentina, you simply have to take it. In fact, get a chance to visit Argentina, full stop, and you simply have to take it. After all, we did it last week without the rugby …
Well, without the rugby we were hoping for from the Boks … Those in light blue and white stripes in the crowd must have had an amazing day out in Mendoza, and could rightfully have pondered a wasted opportunity in the traffic on the way home from a stadium that was much more Coetzenberg than it was Newlands. It was without doubt a game the Pumas could, and many might argue, should, have won!
But back to their wonderful country … I feel very privileged to have been asked by Energade to host a group consisting of their Bok Barometer winner, Grant Lange, and 3 mates as part of an official supporters tour to Buenos Aires and Mendoza to watch the Boks play.
Not shy to tan a tjoppie myself, people who have visited the home of the Tango and Bajada scrum have always spoken very enthusiastically of their passion for meat. To the extent that it was bound to disappoint.
I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a few top pre and post match festivities round the world … from braaiing on the ground with a coolerbox for a seat in the dusty Rustenburg car park, to powering through a few R75 beers outside the main gates of Twickenham after inhaling a boerrie roll bought from a vendor situated between the tube station and the stadium …
But the pre match braai in Mendoza takes the cake. Part of the package put together by TEAM Sport, we were hosted by the local sports club a few km’s from the stadium, and I will take very fond memories of that day with me to my grave. The sun was out, there was unlimited ice cold Quilmos beer (perhaps the only real rival to Black Label on earth) and truly delicious Malbec red wine, together with unlimited platters of some of the greatest meat ever put on a hot rock type personal braai powered by coals from the central braai.
The under 12 B team from the local school could have trotted out instead of the Boks and it would not have dampened our group’s spirits …
What did dampen our spirits, though, was the dry stadium … And having to pay R 60 for a non-alcoholic beer! But that did make us focus on the game.
A game that saw the “Real” Pumas pitch up. I spoke last week of 4 issues that influenced their performance: Losing influential players either just before or during the game, playing 60 minutes of the game with 14 players due to the 2 yellow cards, not being prepared for the new scrum call, and the complete lack of defence against the driving mauls.
Throw in a little Latino temperament, playing their first game together – away from home – after a long European season, and you get the rabble that pitched up at FNB Stadium.
In Mendoza, with the fire back in their bellies, they turned their scrum around, and improved their defence immeasurably, most especially round the fringes, and at the lineout. Which meant the Boks were without their most potent weapon, the driving maul, and last week’s “Go forward” ball from the likes of Vermeulen, Alberts and Etzebeth, who were all cut in half at some stage by the aggressive defence from the home side.
A fantastic turnaround by the Pumas, who delivered a performance worthy of their inclusion in the Rugby Championship … A performance I am not sure the Boks were prepared for, given how rattled they looked.
Argentina at home, even for the All Blacks, is a tough fixture, so coming away with a win is a good result for the Boks. I have a feeling perspective will be added after the Aussies and Kiwis have played their away fixtures against the Pumas.