The Springboks were left to lament a limp and ill-disciplined fourth-quarter performance against the All Blacks on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI at Loftus Versfeld.
The Boks were in charge of the contest for the better part of 60 minutes. Indeed, when Cheslin Kolbe was awarded a try in the 59th minute, the partisan crowd at Loftus started to celebrate as if South Africa had scored their second win over the All Blacks in the space of three weeks.
The Boks led 30-13 at that stage. They should have put the All Blacks away. Instead, they started to give away penalties, fall off tackles, and concede acres of territory.
Rassie Erasmus may come to lament some of the substitutions he made during that period. The fact of the matter is that the Boks weren’t up to repelling the All Blacks in the dying stages, and the tactical display contrasted that of the first 50-odd minutes.
Perhaps that initial effort will encourage Erasmus and company. When last have we seen the Boks troubling the All Blacks to such a degree in the air? When last have we seen the men in green marrying brain with brawn to win the territorial battle against the No 1 side in the world?
The Boks ticked all of the relevant boxes during the early stages. On the back of a dominant forward performance, halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard took some important tactical decisions.
Clearly, the Boks came into this contest with the intent to kick in behind the All Blacks defenders and force the visitors to play from deep in their own half.
De Klerk’s box kicks were well chased by the likes of Aphiwe Dyantyi and Willie le Roux. While the Boks didn’t always secure the ball in that situation, the accuracy of the kick and chase ensured there was a contest. Those probes by De Klerk, Pollard, and even Damian de Allende into the corners heaped the pressure on the All Blacks.
The visitors didn’t respond well. Their exit play was poor, and their kick returns far too deep. The All Blacks were based in Johannesburg for the whole week, and opted to have their captain’s run at a local school field instead of at Loftus Versfeld. It took them some time to adjust on Saturday.
The scoreline read 6-6 at half-time. The Boks were well ahead in the sense that they had enjoyed 69% of possession and, most importantly, 78% of territory. They should have translated more of that dominance into points.
Siya Kolisi produced one of his strongest performances for the Boks as a player and as a captain. Kolisi opted to take the points when they were on offer, in the first half and during the early stages of the second. Pollard made every single shot on goal count to further heap the pressure on the All Blacks.
The Boks scored three tries in the second stanza. That clinical display allowed them to take a 30-13 lead going into the fourth quarter. In the end, that lead wasn’t big enough.
The All Blacks shifted gear in terms of their tempo and accuracy. By contrast, the Boks made some poor decisions and gave away too many penalties.
Ardie Savea crashed over the final minute to level the scores. Richie Mo’unga added the extras to give the All Blacks the victory.
A few of the Bok players threw up their hands in dismay at that point. A more accurate display in the second stanza would have earned them a second win over the All Blacks in the space of three weeks.
Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP