PRETORIA – Coach Steve Hansen says New Zealand’s ability to keep up their intensity to the end was a key factor in his side’s stunning 32-30 comeback victory over South Africa in their Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The world champions trailed by 12 points with four minutes remaining in a game in which they were largely outplayed.
But tries from lock Scott Barrett and replacement flank Ardie Savea helped seal a memorable victory to avenge the All Blacks’ two-point defeat to the Springboks in Wellington last month.
“I’m proud of the character they (the players) showed,” Hansen told reporters.
“A couple of weeks ago we didn’t manage the game very well, and I think (captain) Kieran (Read) and his leadership group can take a lot of satisfaction over how they managed tonight’s game.
“It could have easily been one we let go and allowed them (the Boks) to win, but they dug in deep and refused to give up.
“Sometimes if you keep knocking on the door, someone will open it and you can come in.”
It was the visitors’ ability to keep the tempo of their game high in the final 20 minutes that put the Boks under the kind of intense pressure they had not felt in the first hour.
“It’s an 80-minute game, and you have to deal with that,” Hansen said.
“You have your bench there and you need to use them. You can’t use the same 15 for the full 80 minutes – players run out of gas.”
Hansen had praise for the improved Boks, whom his side had humiliated 57-0 in last year’s Rugby Championship under former coach Allister Coetzee.
“South Africa, I thought, played incredibly well, and they are probably unlucky not to win it.
“But a few weeks ago, we were sitting and thinking we were unlucky not to win, so it’s been two great Test matches that have been great for the game.
“Everybody who watched tonight... some will be disappointed, but they can’t be disappointed in the rugby that was played.”
New Zealand had already sealed a third successive Rugby Championship trophy win after victory on Argentina last week.
South Africa and New Zealand have been drawn together in the pool stages of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, along with Italy, Namibia and the Repechage qualifier.Reuters