The Springboks were more physical, more accurate, and ultimately more deserving of victory in the monumental Test match against the All Blacks at the Cake Tin, writes JON CARDINELLI.
What a finish to an incredible Test match. What a result for the Boks, both in the context of their current season and the past nine years.
At long last, the Boks have claimed that elusive win on New Zealand soil.
Before the game, few would have backed the Boks to keep the All Blacks honest. In the end, the Boks won by a couple of points and put five tries past a much-vaunted New Zealand defence.
The stats show why this wasn’t the Boks’ most accurate or disciplined performance. On the day, however, it was a performance superior to that of the All Blacks.
A week ago, the Boks were left to lament their poor finishing in a narrow loss to Australia. A few weeks before that, Handré Pollard’s wayward goal-kicking was in the spotlight.
Against the All Blacks in Wellington, however, the Boks made the bulk of their try-scoring and kicking chances count. The Bok forwards were superb – especially in the first half – and Aphiwe Dyantyi’s finishing close to the line was world class.
Pollard converted five of his six shots on goal in the Boks’ biggest game of the season. It was a remarkable showing under pressure, even more so considering he started the game with a series of mistakes (a misdirected kickoff, a missed tackle, and an attacking turnover).
The All Blacks, by comparison, were made to lament their handling errors and misses in front of goal. According to Opta, the hosts conceded 16 turnovers and flyhalf Beauden Barrett missed four out of six conversion attempts (eight points went begging).
A return to a more traditional approach paid dividends for the Boks. They made only 106m in the first half – All Blacks wingers Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith made more between them – yet the scoreline at half-time read 24-17 in their favour. Clearly, they knew that an expansive approach would play into the All Blacks’ hands.
That first-half scoreline would have been cause for celebration, regardless of what transpired in the second stanza. Between 2010 and 2017, the Boks failed to score more than 17 points in a Test played against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil. On Saturday, they surpassed that score in the first half.
The forwards set the platform in the buildup to Dyantyi’s two tries. Malcolm Marx finished well after the pack executed a drive from the lineout. It was also a day that witnessed the Boks turning defence into attack, with Willie le Le Roux and Cheslin Kolbe snatching scores against the run of play.
There were many individual defensive plays that were nothing short of heroic. That said, the Boks spent too much time on defence in the second stanza. Indeed, their overall tackle count of 226 tells a story of just how much work they were forced to do in this area.
Their discipline let them down at certain stages, and if they had lost they may have lamented the penalties they conceded, and ultimately Le Roux’s yellow card, in the second half. In the end, Le Roux’s period in the sin bin only cost them five points, and they were able to withstand the All Blacks’ assault at the death.
The Boks played with passion and aggression, and most of all belief. Everything was against them in the buildup, and the All Blacks’ attacking stats suggest that the hosts should have won the game.
The All Blacks made 633m, 205 carries and beat 33 defenders. They had a whopping 75% of the possession.
They weren’t able to translate that statistical dominance into scoreboard dominance, though, and ultimately weren’t good enough to deny the Boks a fantastic victory.
Photo: Marty Melville/AFP Photo