The Springboks claimed their first win in New Zealand since 2009 as they held on to defeat the All Blacks 36-34 in Wellington on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
This was a classic! A game and result for the ages!
The Boks came into this clash after suffering two successive losses and facing an All Blacks team that they had only managed to beat in one of their last 12 meetings. History and all expectations were against them.
Yet, after 80 minutes of brutal, beautiful Test-match rugby, tears would flow from a Bok team that wrote a piece of history in Wellington.
On the hour mark, the Springboks led 36-24. Plenty of drama was still to follow in a clash where the Boks had to make more than 200 tackles, but had displayed remarkable courage and character on defence.
As expected, the typical late All Blacks surge was to follow. Codie Taylor would score to cut the deficit to seven points, while Bok fullback Willie le Roux was sent to the sin-bin soon after.
The brave Boks continued to hang on for dear life as New Zealand went on the hunt for a comeback victory, and took a step closer when Ardie Savea barged over to score in the 74th minute. The conversion hit the upright and the Springboks hung onto a two-point lead.
The All Blacks continued to launch attack after attack, and yet there was no way through the Bok defensive wall. A knock-on finally ended the contest more than three minutes after the regulation time. The Springboks celebrated with unbridled joy.
It was a result made all the more stunning considering that the Boks had made the worst possible start to this clash when Handré Pollard sent the kick-off soaring over the dead-ball line. Eben Etzebeth conceded a penalty soon after, while All Blacks fullback Jordie Barrett then broke through the Bok defence to score the opening try in the fifth minute.
Within the first 15 minutes, the Boks also conceded four turnovers and missed eight tackles. The ominous warning bells were ringing at that point, and became louder when lovely interplay saw Aaron Smith put away for the hosts’ second try.
However, the Springboks then produced some magic of their own as some superb phase play and handling enabled Aphiwe Dyantyi to expose some space out wide to round the defence and dot down under the posts.
It was a score that went against the expected script. As would be the case when Barrett opted for an ill-judged quick lineout on his 22m line, with Le Roux snatching up possession and darting away to score a try that sent the Boks into a surprise 14-12 lead after 25 minutes.
It signified an almost tangible lift in the Boks’ self-belief, as reflected in the decision to kick a penalty to the corner. From the resultant lineout drive, Malcolm Marx burst away to score the visitors’ third try.
As the All Blacks so often do, they would strike back just before the break when Rieko Ioane went over to score (although the officials did miss a clear knock-on in the build-up). With the final play of the half, though, Pollard slotted a penalty to send South Africa into an utterly unexpected, but fully-deserved 24-17 lead.
As it was, the Boks’ belief in an unimaginable upset continued to build when Cheslin Kolbe snapped up a loose pass to score an intercept try that opened up a handy 14-point lead soon after the restart.
Ione would hit back with his second try for the All Blacks, but the Boks continued to dazzle on attack as gainline dominance effectively set the platform for Dyantyi to secure his brace of tries with a stunning finish.
Then came the dramatic final quarter, but it would be the Springboks who emerged as triumphant victors.
All Blacks – Tries: Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane (2), Codie Taylor, Ardie Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2).
Springboks – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi (2), Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Handré Pollard (4). Penalty: Pollard.
All Blacks – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Jack Goodhue, 23 Damian McKenzie.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images