The All Blacks showed their class and duly exacted revenge for a loss in Wellington but if there was any doubt over the Springboks’ renaissance, there can be no doubt.
In a magnificent game of rugby, New Zealand exploited the hosts’ errors at the death to nick a 32-30 win at a jam-packed Loftus on Saturday evening.
Patient, powerful rugby had seen the Boks establish a healthy 30-13 lead going into the final quarter as they once again rattled the No 1 side in world rugby, but they did lack composure and concentration in losing their discipline in the last 15 minutes.
And that’s all the All Blacks, who were very much out of it for most the match, required to save their day as they showed immense ruthlessness in taking every point on offer.
While no tries were scored in the first half as the teams were deadlocked 6-6 at the break, the game was ripped open by two tries from the Boks.
From there on, it truly was a spectacle … even if it ended in disappointment for Rassie Erasmus’ troops.
Who was the star in this match?
Bok hooker Malcolm Marx was immense on the ground, winning at least two turnovers in the first half and another crucial one just after halftime. But it was his steal in the 29th minute on the Boks goal-line with the All Blacks looking ominous that personified his presence in the pack. He was robust as ball-carrier too.
Key moments and themes
- In contrast to the Test in Wellington, the Springboks dominated territory and possession in the first half. While maintaining good discipline on defence once again, it was pleasing to see the hosts create more play than previously. They were helped by an All Black side that lacked momentum and discipline.
- The game was a triumph of sorts for the centre pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende. Kriel was the catalyst for the surge in points after he brilliantly kept the New Zealand defence guessing for a superb solo try. In turn, De Allende – who carried manfully – was rewarded with a try after Siya Kolisi straightened brilliantly.
- While referee Angus Gardner generally controlled things well, he did miss two crucial infringements. All Black halfback Aaron Smith’s breakaway try featured a forward pass, while replacement Ardie Savea’s clincher should’ve been invalidated by a skew line-out throw.
- Yet it shouldn’t detract from the fact that the All Blacks, despite not producing fireworks for their tries, capitalised on their opportunities. They dominated their contacts in the last few minutes and had support from potential carriers outside them. In contrast, the Boks were at times guilty of loitering, not always dominating contact or holding on and conceding possession.
- Erasmus’ clearing of the bench will be a talking point. The lack of experience seemed to make the Boks rush things and make panicky decisions. The Bok coach will point to the fact that he needs to build depth. But was this the game to do it?
Springboks – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3). Penalties: Pollard (3).
All Blacks – Tries: Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (3). Penalties: Beauden Barrett (2).