At a similarly dark time in South African rugby history, it took an angled penalty from Andre Pretorius to secure a 21-20 win over the All Blacks in 2006 that might have saved Jake White his job as Springbok coach.
It was a result that interrupted the All Blacks’ 15-match winning sequence, while ensuring the Boks finally ended a five-match losing streak, which had included a historic 49-0 loss to Australia earlier in the season.
It was the home team’s first victory in the Tri-Nations that season, with the Boks having lost two to Australia – including that 49-0 reverse – and twice against the All Blacks, including a 45-26 defeat at Loftus the week before.
Nevertheless, New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the Boks fully deserved their win.
‘They should get a big pat on the back. Well done to them. They were up against it coming into this game and they did the business. When you’ve won 15 in a row human nature ensures you’re just not as hungry as a team like the Springboks were today. We weren’t on the edge of the edge … they were,’ he said.
The teams were level 13-13 at half-time after tries to Dan Carter and Bryan Habana, and each side added another in the second period. Pedrie Wannenburg went over for the Boks, while Joe Rokocoko scored for the All Blacks.
With neither side gaining the ascendancy it came down to the boot of Carter and Pretorius and, of course, which team’s defence stood strongest.
In the end it was the home side who found themselves in the right part of the field and when referee Chris White blew up Rodney So’oialo at the breakdown, Pretorius made no mistake with the 77th-minute penalty.
‘He [Pretorius] just smiled at me when we were awarded that chance,’ captain John Smit said. ‘I knew he’d knock it over.’
‘I knew it [the losing streak] had to turn,’ White said. ‘Considering where we’ve come from this season, it was a very big win. Probably the biggest since I’ve been coach.’
The coach added: ‘It was a team performance and all the guys deserve credit. We worked hard in the week to fix our defence and it was just about perfect today. We also executed better than at any stage this year, so there were plenty of positives to take from the game.’
A year later the Boks were celebrating being crowned world champions for a second time.
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