It was a memorable Test match at Loftus Versfeld, with the All Blacks claiming a last-gasp 32-30 victory over the Springboks.
Mark Keohane rants and raves about the Pretoria thriller...
1. Another Test rugby epic. The contest between green-and-gold, and black, is back. The last three Test matches between South Africa and New Zealand have ended with a respective one, two and two-point differential.
Loftus is the cathedral of South African rugby, and at this place of rugby worship, the Springboks confirmed their resurgence and reminded the world that reports of Bok rugby’s death are premature and grossly exaggerated (to borrow from the words of a very famous Mark).
This was a Test match played at a frantic pace that had all the elements to have been a World Cup final.
2. The Bok midfield of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel produced their finest combined effort against the best team in the world, and also one of the best midfield combinations in Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
The South African duo were on the front foot all day because of the forward dominance, but they still comfortably won the battle of the midfield.
Both scored wonderful tries, but both did so much more than produce five-pointers. De Allende was effective in every carry, and Kriel’s defence never gets the necessary applause.
3. Siya Kolisi’s physicality is at the heart of the Boks. He leads from the front and commands presence because of his dominance in the collision.
Kolisi leads and the rest follow, especially Pieter-Steph du Toit, who again revelled in the intensity of playing the world’s best team.
Kolisi’s power surge to knock over replacement prop Tim Perry and set up De Allende’s try was a personal highlight; equally Du Toit’s beating of Williams’ tackle to come so close to what would have been a sensational five-pointer.
1. It’s one of my pet hates that South Africans believe the way to counter the haka is to drown it out with shouts of “Ole, Ole, Ole”. The haka is one of the greatest moments of theatre in world rugby. There’s a joy in watching it, hearing it and wanting to listen to it.
It’s a mark of respect from the All Blacks to the opposition. They lay down the challenge.
It’s riveting, and the All Blacks, in Pretoria, saved their most passionate rendition of the year for what they believed was the biggest occasion.
Once again, South Africans at the ground missed out on the theatre because of ignorance as to why it gets done.
2. Loftus is my favourite rugby ground, and traditionally the people of Pretoria are my favourite because they are the most knowledgeable rugby crowd in South Africa.
I’ve always enjoyed Loftus, and during my time with the Boks (as their communications manager), it was the best Test-match experience.
But there’s always one idiot in the mix – and that idiot was the one who felt it necessary to throw a ball at the All Black kicker in the build-up to a crucial conversion. The occasion was deserving of so much more than this act of stupidity.
3. Bok coach Rassie Erasmus was shattered at the final whistle, and I know there will be the most intense soul-searching about how the Boks lost from being 30-13 up with 18 minutes to play.
Was it a choke, or one of the great All Black comebacks? I would venture a bit of both, but there is no doubt the Bok coach didn’t get his substitutions right in the last 10 minutes.
Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk’s departures in the final 10 minutes coincided with the All Blacks’ revival. The two simply had to see out the 80 minutes, such was their influence.