CRAIG LEWIS identifies some of the good, the bad and the ugly to take away from the clash between the All Blacks and Boks in Wellington.
The chip from Cheslin Kolbe and opportunistic gather and score from Herschel Jantjies was the obvious moment of magic from the Boks’ memorable draw with the All Blacks. Kolbe was sensational throughout the clash, while Jantjies once again demonstrated just what a special player he is. However, as a collective, this was another performance and result that will serve as a massive boost for the Springboks in this World Cup year. It’s not often that an All Blacks side looks quite so ordinary at home, and yet for the majority of the first half, they appeared to be devoid of any answers to the questions posed by the Boks. And even when New Zealand managed to wrestle back some momentum in the second stanza, the Springboks displayed immense fighting spirit to get themselves back within scoring range. After last year’s win over the All Blacks in Wellington, followed by a narrow defeat in Pretoria, it’s clear that the once gaping chasm between the two sides has been reduced to virtually nothing. And when the Boks and All Blacks meet in the opening game of the World Cup later this year, every indication now suggests that there will be nothing to choose between the two great arch-rivals.
For all the dominance the Springboks enjoyed in the first half, Rassie Erasmus’ charges will lament the fact that they weren’t able to turn that pressure into points. Besides a missed penalty from Handré Pollard, an error when Duane Vermeulen lost the ball in contact also allowed the All Blacks to produce a typical counter-attack that resulted in a decisive try just before half time. While the Boks will be buoyed by the end result of snatching a dramatic draw, they will also know that there is a need to ensure that they deliver a knockout blow when they do have the opposition on the ropes.
It’s really unfortunate that once again there was a fair amount of post-match talk around the officiating of referee Nic Berry. Last weekend, it was ref Paul Williams who came in for some severe criticism over decisions made during the Boks and Wallabies clash, and it’s a recurring theme when it comes to Test rugby. In this instance, it’s hard to mount a defence for Berry, who missed a clear knock-on, before ultimately awarding the All Blacks a penalty that resulted in three crucial points. No one wants to have such big matches blighted by questionable officiating, and it’s vital that World Rugby places a premium on ensuring that officials are held accountable as we approach the World Cup in Japan.
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