Mbombela — It was in vibrant technicolour that the rampant Springboks ticked the elusive box of a win over the All Blacks in South Africa when they smashed the Kiwis 26-10 at a teeming Mbombela Stadium on Saturday night.
It was the first time Siya Kolisi’s team had beaten their old foe on South African soil since coming together under the coaching duo of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber in 2018, and it was also the first Springbok victory over the All Blacks in South Africa since 2014, when Patrick Lambie kicked the winning penalty.
And the utter domination of the South Africans over the former No 1 team in the world begs the question of why it took so long.
The Kiwis are indeed a team in disarray, and having been completely smothered by the Springboks, it is hard to see them recovering at Ellis Park next week in the return match of the Rugby Championship.
The Boks were truly dominant, especially up front, where Malcolm Marx celebrated his 50 Test cap with an astonishing performance. He was superb. Another worthy of that adjective was the right wing, Kurt-Lee Arendse, who had a sad ending to a great game when he was carried off the field injured five minutes from time, having tackled bravely all night while clinically scoring the first try of the night.
It was indeed a ferocious encounter: Such was the intent from South Africa that not even a minute had elapsed before scrumhalf Faf de Klerk knocked himself out flinging himself at an All Black ball carrier.
It was a most unfortunate start to the game and it took more than five minutes before the prone scrumhalf was carried from the field. It brought Jaden Hendrikse into the arena far earlier than he could possibly have imagined and he responded with an assured performance.
The restart was a set scrum and ominously for the All Blacks, they immediately conceded a penalty.
Close to ten minutes of pressure on the All Blacks ensued and ultimately the score came when the Kiwis could not handle a Handre Pollard skyscraper on their 22m line, and the loose ball was scooted out to Arendse and he scampered home for the try, with Pollard converting.
Not long after the restart, the second scrum of the game once more saw the retreating Kiwi scrum penalised, an ominous portent for the visitors.
And a first quarter of total Springbok domination was marked by a three-pointer by Pollard after Pieter-Steph du Toit had forced a penalty at the breakdown.
Against the run of play, the All Blacks won a penalty for Jordie Barrett to convert and they would have been delighted to get on the board having done almost no attacking.
The second half began as had the first, with the Boks cranking up the heat although it took ten minutes before it turned into points, a Pollard penalty that had been won at the breakdown.
It was also at this juncture that Jordie Barrett limped from the field and Richie Mo’unga was the replacement, and Kiwi hearts would have been hoping that his twinkle toes could conjure up some magic.
Instead, the sparkle dust came from the boot of Pollard, who judiciously summed up the situation when the Boks had a good territorial advantage while the Kiwi defence was well set, and he called for a direct backward pass from Hendrikse and then stroked home a majestic drop goal.
At 16-3 with only the final quarter to go, surely the Boks could not lose from that point, and it became fait accompli eight minutes from time when Pollard stroked home his third penalty of the night.
The All Blacks never go away and with two minutes left, Dalton Papalli cashed in on a sensational break by winger Caleb Clarke, but just as Kiwi hopes were rising for a Great Escape, they were obliterated when Willie Le Roux sensationally snaffled a late score.
Springboks 26 – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Handre Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3). Drop goal: Pollard (1).
All Blacks 10 – Try: Shannon Frizell. Conversion: Richie Mo’unga (1). Penalty: Jordie Barrett (1).