One should probably never get too carried away when a rookie produces one superb effort at Test level, but Herschel Jantjies has done enough to allow South Africans to part with cautious optimism and confidently back him as one for the future - the near future.
Scratch that... the present.
The Springbok scrumhalf, who last weekend scored a brace to help sink the Wallabies 35-17 on debut in their Rugby Championship opener, scored the match-saving try in the last minute against the All Blacks in Wellington yesterday to give Rassie Erasmus’s troops a thrilling 16-all draw.
After the Boks’ historic 36-34 coup at the Cake Tin last year, this match was always going to be big.
Seeing as the these two sides will only meet each other in their World Cup opening match in Tokyo again, a win was vital to top up the confidence levels before the Japan spectacle.
Jantjies came off the bench early in the second half for Bok No9 incumbent Faf de Klerk. While De Klerk put in a strong shift, Jantjies was just as neat, but it’s what he did as the clock was running down that produced the moment of the match, the moment of the Championship so far.
He went aerial and gathered a chip which bounced off his shoulder, before gathering to run in the try. Class.
That passage of play highlighted another individual, Cheslin Kolbe - also not the biggest of men - and together, within a matter of seconds, they killed any argument that size matters in Test rugby.
It wasn’t just in that moment that they did it, but throughout the clash at Westpac Stadium.
Jantjies was a presence on defence at Ellis Park and continued that attitude this weekend, while Kolbe’s outing without the ball showed that he offers more than just a ridiculous, capacity-filled X-factor storage. He made 12 tackles and missed only two. He was big on defence. All Black wing Rieko Ioane should be able to testify to that.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Toulouse sensation’s best position is fullback, yet he displayed some fine touches on the wing in such a big Test.
Stormers star Pieter-Steph du Toit also produced a huge outing, especially in defence, while openside flank Kwagga Smith also led the way when it came to defensive heroics.
Overall, it’s a result the Boks can be pleased with, and regardless of how many times Erasmus reminded us that the last three contests between the two sides were decided by two points, the New Zealanders still would have been favourites heading into their backyard clash.
The Springboks dominated the possession and territory stats in the first half and had the hosts under the pump, with their line speed being a key component in that pressure.
Their ability to force the Kiwis into making mistakes - a string of them - in the first half, was evident, but towards the end of this opening stanza New Zealand took the lead to take a one-point lead (7-6), Bok flyhalf Handré Pollard having slotted two penalties before then.
Fullback Beauden Barrett capitalised on South Africa’s disoriented defence and skinned it on the outside before passing the ball to Jack Goodhue on his inside to race in to score, again showing their ability to pounce on opposition mistakes.
In the second half the All Blacks came out with intent, succeeding in stretching the Boks, whose impressive first-half line speed went down a gear or two after the break.
Both Pollard and Barrett missed a penalty kick each, but Pollard slotted three overall and Richie Mo’unga two, with Barrett getting one.
The pressure was on Pollard to slot the levelling conversion after Jantjies’ try from an angle, and he made no mistakes to end the game.
The Boks will meet Argentina, who lost to the Wallabies in Australia yesterday, on August 10.@WynonaLouw