Wow! What a turnaround by the Springboks!
After being in the depths of despair in losing to Argentina and Australia, Siya Kolisi’s men did the unthinkable by beating the All Blacks 36-34 in their Rugby Championship showdown at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
The Boks scored five tries to the six of the New Zealanders, but it was Handre Pollard’s goal-kicking that proved to be the difference in the end as he slotted four conversions and a penalty, while Beauden Barrett missed several kicks at goal.
But it was the attitude of the South Africans that was totally different to the previous weeks as they appeared to have the greater hunger and determination on the day.
They recorded a historic first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009, when they won 32-29 in Hamilton.
Even though it was the All Blacks who opened the scoring on Saturday through fullback Jordie Barrett – following an amazing pass off the ground by his brother Beauden – the Boks were much more alert on defence and tackled ferociously throughout.
They would’ve felt despondent by conceding a second try in the 16th minute, with Ben Smith in space out wide and putting Aaron Smith through on the inside, and suddenly it was 12-0.
The Boks needed something to go their way to give them real belief, and that moment came after 20 minutes.
The South Africans rumbled up the middle and punched holes in the All Black defence, and quick hands by Malcolm Marx freed up Willie le Roux, and he put Aphiwe Dyantyi over for the opening Bok try.
The home side still went hammer and tongs at the Boks, but couldn’t find another way through for a while.
They were being knocked back by the visitors, and seemed to feel the pressure when Jordie Barrett opted for a quick lineout in the 25th minute.
The ball didn’t reach Rieko Ioane, and the awkward bounce saw Le Roux pounce to run it in under the posts.
The Boks went up 14-12, and were never behind again.
They played with greater confidence as the match wore on, and just after the half-hour mark, a lineout maul saw Marx break away to dot down.
Coach Rassie Erasmus would’ve been delighted with the change in performance from his side, but would’ve known that the game was far from won.
Steve Hansen’s team then flexed their muscles before halftime, taking the ball through 20 phases before Ioane went over to reduce the deficit to 21-17.
Crucially, though, Pollard slotted a penalty on the hooter to stretch the lead back to seven points at 24-17, and the Kiwis had it all to do in the second half to maintain their dominance over the South Africans.
Lukhanyo Am went off with an injury during the break, which saw Cheslin Kolbe come on at wing, with Jesse Kriel moving back to centre.
And luck was on Kolbe’s side as he read the New Zealand play perfectly to intercept a pass from Anton Lienert-Brown to score his first Test try, which gave the Boks a 31-17 advantage.
With the home crowd urging them on, though, the All Blacks weren’t going to just lie down and lose.
Ioane handed off Kolbe with a brilliant finish, and the game was in the balance once more at 31-24 with 28 minutes left.
The South Africans had the bit between their teeth, and needed to score next to have any chance of pulling off a famous victory.
And they managed to put together the movement of the match to score one of their finest tries.
The forwards again got well over the advantage line, and Steven Kitshoff was prominent before replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies threw a lovely long pass to Warren Whiteley in space.
Whiteley quickly found Dyantyi, who stepped inside and showed great pace to score his second of the night.
The Springboks beat the All Blacks 36-34. What a ham. Well done boys. pic.twitter.com/eXQUaqtlXq— South African Rugby (@Springboks) September 15, 2018
At 36-24 behind and 20 minutes left, it was a huge task even for the mighty All Blacks to claw their way back to victory from that position.
Hooker Codie Taylor did dot down from a lineout maul, and the Boks eventually gave away a yellow card – by Le Roux – as their scramble defence could only hold out for so long.
Ardie Savea finished off yet another rolling maul try with six minutes to go, and it looked like heartbreak was to follow for the Boks once more.
But with Whiteley making tackle after tackle, and even Kolbe manning the fringes of the rucks, the Boks forced a knock-on from Ofa Tu’ungafasi in the closing moments.
And then they defended a five-metre scrum, from which the All Blacks put together a few phases once more, but Dyantyi sped out of the line and forced a knock-on from Damian McKenzie to secure a momentous victory.
All Blacks 34 – Tries: Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane (2), Codie Taylor, Ardie Savea. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2).
Springboks 36 – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi (2), Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Cheslin Kolbe. Conversions: Handre Pollard (4). Penalty: Pollard (1).