PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (AP) — South Africa took another step toward banishing the bad memories of 2016 with a 37-15 win over Argentina to open its Rugby Championship campaign on Saturday.
The Springboks scored four tries to two by the Pumas, and led throughout at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium to continue a revival that began with a 3-0 series whitewash over France in June.
Those results are a completely different story to last year, which was the worst season in the Springboks' modern history and nearly cost coach Allister Coetzee his job after just one season in charge.
South Africa twice had to respond to tries by Argentina, with the visitors touching down first and against the run of play when scrumhalf Martin Landajo finished off a counterattack in the 32nd.
Wing Courtnall Skosan bounced up from a half-tackle by Argentina's defense to score his first test try five minutes later.
There was also a first test score for South Africa's other wing, Raymond Rhule, in the second half. Forwards Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit made sure of an opening-round victory for the Boks after Emiliano Boffelli's try closed the gap to 23-15.
South Africa also beat Argentina at home last year before being beaten away in Salta in the return game — one of eight defeats in 12 tests in 2016, the most losses ever for South Africa in a season.
Coetzee's 2017 team, with new personnel like Skosan and Rhule, are in a much happier place when they head to Argentina for their second game of the southern hemisphere championship. That will be the Boks' first game away from home this year, though, and will test the extent of the revival.
"We can't wait for next week," said Springboks captain Eben Etzebeth, who is standing in for injured skipper Warren Whiteley.
South Africa began with a 16-phase attack and although Argentina held out well under that early onslaught, it was a sign of things to come.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies landed two early penalties on his way to 17 points.
The first blip came when South Africa lost possession on attack and Argentina fullback Joaquin Tuculet countered brilliantly, slicing through a gap and passing to wing Boffelli. Boffelli's clever grubber sat up for Landajo to collect and dive over in the left corner.
Skosan's reply took five minutes as he was tackled but not held and jumped back up to speed away.
South Africa had set-piece dominance, especially at scrum time, against a normally powerful Argentina front eight.
That set the base for the three second-half tries, two of which were finished by slick handling in the backline.
Rhule was sent clear after the ball was moved quickly out wide early in the second half, and flanker Kolisi scored off a similar move. Kolisi's try came after Boffelli sneaked over in the corner for Argentina to close the gap to eight points with 20 minutes to play.
Replacement Du Toit drove over from close range in the last 10, making sure there was no way back for Argentina and making it four wins from four in 2017 for the Springboks.
"We're happy with the start," Coetzee said.