South Africa won the battle but lost the war following their 38-21 victory against Argentina at a sold out King's Park in Durban on Saturday, a result that handed the 2022 Rugby Championship title to New Zealand.
The All Blacks top the standings with 19 points from their six games, one more than South Africa, who could not manage the try-scoring bonus point they needed to go with a 39-point winning margin on the scoreboard to claim the trophy.
Instead, Argentina ran them close in Durban but were once again let down by their ill-discipline as they received four yellow cards and conceded two penalty tries. The Boks also scored through No. 8 Jasper Wiese, Siya Kolisi and replacement fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse.
The visitors looked dangerous every time they had ball in hand and scored three tries through scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou, back-row Juan Martín Gonzalez and centre Matias Moroni, but spent much of the time on the backfoot as they conceded 22 penalties in the game.
"It's tough, but we never take a win for granted and it is an honour to beat a great side like Argentina," South Africa captain Kolisi said at the post-match presentation.
"The way we started, it was slow. But we were able to score some points. Our discipline also let us down a bit at times.
"When we create opportunities... we were so many times in their half and we did not take the chances. We create so much, our game-plan is working, we just don't convert those opportunities."
New Zealand's 40-14 win over Australia earlier in the day made South Africa's task difficult in Durban, especially as they have only scored more than 40 points in a game once since winning the Rugby World Cup in 2019 -- against Georgia in July last year.
Like Kolisi, coach Jacques Nienaber has bemoaned their inability to turn pressure in the opponents' 22 into points this season and it proved the case again in the first half as they dominated possession and territory but led 17-7 at the break.
It was a mixture of poor decision-making, stout Argentina defence and cynical play from the visitors that led to yellow cards for forwards Marcos Kremer and Juan Martin Gonzalez, but the Boks could not capitalise.
Wiese scored his first try in a green and gold jersey as the home side scrummed the ball over the line, before Kolisi crossed when he broke away from a maul and dived over.
Bertranou got a try back for Argentina before the halftime whistle when he profited from some scrappy defence from the hosts.
For the second week in a row Argentina started the second half much the brighter side and they were rewarded with an excellent second score via back-row Gonzalez as he showed excellent pace to race down the left wing and dot down.
But the Boks' power game and their 'Bomb Squad' off the bench sapped the visitors' energy as they conceded two more scores from driving mauls that ended as penalty tries as well as two more yellow cards.