The Springboks scored 21 second-half points to just three to power to a 24-13 victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Tries by wings Makazole Mapimpi and Canan Moodie in the first six minutes of the second half were overdue reward for the foundations laid in the first half.
With three other scoring attempts properly ruled out (two for held up over the line and the final for an obstruction in the lead-up) the Boks turned the tables on the Pumas, who had dominated at Emirates Airline Park the week before, by forcing them to spend much of the match on the defensive.
Manie Libbok scored 14 of the points from a conversion and four penalty goals but also missed four kicks at goal. Remarkably, he seemed to be unaffected by those misses as he finished with three consecutive successes to put the game beyond the reach of the home side.
The Boks’ defence was on point throughout, repeatedly closing the door on the outside, while repeatedly driving back the home side’s carriers. The set piece worked well throughout repeatedly putting the Pumas’ scrum under pressure to complete a dominant performance for the much-changed visitors.
Those changes included playing in the alternate jersey – because of the Pumas switching to a darker kit – but there was no change in the Boks’ physicality and intent as they were twice held up over the line in a frustrating first half that saw them go largely unrewarded for some bright and dominant passages of play.
Libbok put them in the lead in the 16th minute with a penalty from just to the right of the posts but two other attempts – on the same side and 15 metres in from touch were pushed wide to presage a sketchy afternoon from the tee for the Bok flyhalf.
Those misses compounded the frustration of having No 8 Jasper Wiese held up over the line after 15 patient phases in the fourth minute and lock Jean Kleyn suffer the same fate in the 27th minute.
The second was shortly after the Pumas had poured salt into the Boks’ wounds by scoring the first try of the match when Gonzalo Bertranou darted in from about eight metres. The Boks had thwarted a maul drive but conceded a penalty for offside and instantly from the penalty, the Pumas scrumhalf tapped to himself and darted in against an unprepared and retreating defence.
To make matters worse, flanker Franco Mostert was yellow carded shortly afterwards for a late tackle on the Pumas’ flyhalf Santiago Carreras. Emiliano Boffelli kicked a penalty four minutes before halftime to take the lead out to seven points.
The Boks put their frustrations firmly behind them and burst into the lead in the first five minutes of the second half with two scintillating tries scored by left and right wings.
The first came on the left with replacement outside centre Jesse Kriel bouncing one tackler before offloading to fullback Damian Willemse who burst clear before giving the scoring pass to Mapimpi.
Four minutes later his partner on the other flank, Moodie, collected a pinpoint near 40-metre kick pass from Libbok to collect on hos touchline and gallop in from 30 metres.
Libbok converted the first from the left touchline but then missed his third and fourth kicks at goal as the Springboks struggled to make their increasing dominance tell on the scoreboard.
At that point Libbok had missed four out of six kicks at goal but, undaunted, nailed three successive penalties between the 58th and 70th minute to stretch out the lead to 11 points (24-13).
The Boks might easily have added a third try – replacement back rower Evan Roos dotted down – but an earlier obstruction offence saw it ruled out.
The Boks were hammering away to the final whistle and if either team was happier to hear the final siren, it was the Pumas.
Argentina 13 [Try: Bertranou; Con: Boffelli; Pens: Boffelli 2] South Africa24 [Tries: Mapimpi, Moodie; Con: Libbok; Pens: Libbok 4]
Argentina: 15 Martin Bogado, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Santiago Grondona, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Pedro Rubiolo, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (captain), 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Matias Moroni.
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Evan Roos, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Kurt-Lee Arendse.
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)