JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa scored nine tries to emphatically open its Rugby Championship with a 73-13 win over Argentina on Saturday, avenging a surprise draw between the teams in their last meeting a year ago with the biggest win ever in the southern hemisphere competition.
The Springboks took control at FNB Stadium in Soweto from a 30th-minute penalty try, and crossed seven times in the second half to keep Argentina winless in seven games in this competition.
South Africa also moved powerfully to a seventh straight test win under coach Heyneke Meyer, with flyhalf Morne Steyn kicking 28 points and landing 12 out of 13 attempts.
South Africa surpassed its own points tally in a 61-22 win over Australia in Pretoria in 1997 and also the competition's previous best 45-point margin when the Springboks beat Australia 53-8 at Johannesburg in 2008, all on a day of national celebration and dedicated to South African icon and former president Nelson Mandela.
"I think that the team talk was simple," Meyer said. "I said to the players, 'I really want a special performance.' We really wanted to make our country proud."
The No. 2-ranked Springboks also responded to New Zealand's six-try, 47-29 win over Australia earlier Saturday to open the tournament, with the top-ranked, world champion and southern hemisphere champion All Blacks undoubtedly rugby's pace-setters.
South Africa had eight different try-scorers after the penalty try and kept a meek Argentina scoreless from the 23rd minute until their only try through captain Felipe Contepomi in the last minute. Contepomi had all Argentina's points with a try, conversion and two penalties, but the South Americans were left ragged and completely dispirited after coming close to a maiden win in the championship in their debut season in 2012 several times, and then going down by 60 points in their 2013 opener.
"Last year we struggled a bit, this year we struggled a lot," Contepomi said. "It's hard when you take a shot like that ... we have to learn, and fast."
It was only 9-6 after nearly half an hour when the Springboks forged ahead with their penalty try, a telling double blow for the Argentinians as they also lost hooker Eusebio Guinazu to a sin-binning for knocking down a pass that would have put Ruan Pienaar clear in the left corner. No. 8 Leonardo Senatore was yellow-carded in the second half.
Centre JJ Engelbrecht collected a kick through three minutes after the penalty try and ran 50 metres for the second, a breakout from near the Springboks' line set up by Steyn, who passed to fullback Willie le Roux to chip ahead.
With a 26-6 halftime lead, the Boks blew the Pumas away in the second to score 47 points and concede only seven. Hooker Adriaan Strauss' try from a rumbling maul early in the second effectively ended what was left of any contest.
"We are very disappointed," Argentina coach Santiago Phelan said. "First half we didn't take control of the ball, we were under pressure everywhere. In the second half we were broken."
Flanker Willem Alberts secured the four-try bonus point as early as the 54th as the Boks repeated the lineout and mauling move that put Strauss over. A minute later, skipper Jean de Villiers intercepted and burst clear and Argentina began to fade away badly under an onslaught.
World Cup-winning scrumhalf Fourie du Preez bolted over for the sixth minutes after returning to international rugby as a replacement following a two-year absence. Wing Bryan Habana scored his South African record-extending 51st test try, and No. 8 Duane Vermeulen and replacement hooker Bismarck du Plessis also crashed over.
Contepomi ended a counterattack with his try in the last act of the game, but that didn't hide the ruthless rugby lesson for the Pumas, who can still recover some pride with the return match in Mendoza, Argentina next weekend as they did in that 16-16 draw last year.
"I think it will be a totally different beast playing in Mendoza," South Africa captain De Villiers said. "They'll be hurting going back home."
South Africa 73 (JJ Engelbrecht, Adriaan Strauss, Willem Alberts, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Duane Vermeulen, Bismarck du Plessis, penalty tries; Morne Steyn 8 conversions, 4 penalties), Argentina 13 (Felipe Contepomi try, conversion, 2 penalties). HT: 26-6.