WELLINGTON – The All Blacks blamed themselves and not the referee or poor kicking as they underwent an immediate review following their shock loss to South Africa in Wellington on Saturday.
Although the All Blacks outscored the Springboks six tries to five, the South Africans came from 12-0 down to post an upset 36-34 victory.
It was an off night for New Zealand kicker Beauden Barrett who missed four of six shots at goal, while referee Nigel Owens did not react when advised by an assistant referee in the dying minutes of the game that two Springboks were offside in front of the posts.
“We lost the game because we allowed South Africa to score 36 points, and that’s something that we can control as a team. It’s a team game,” coach Steve Hansen said after his world champions lost a Rugby Championship match for the first time in three years.
The All Blacks were overwhelming favourites to win after South Africa arrived in New Zealand on a poor run of form, following successive losses to Argentina and Australia, and having not beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009.
Hansen put a positive spin on the result, saying it could benefit his side, who remain at the head of the Rugby Championship table with two rounds to play.
“We can be as hurt as we like, it’s not going to change the result. We’ve got to pick ourselves up off the floor and carry on,” he said.
“They won, you give them 10 out of 10. Tonight’s their night, and they should enjoy that. We will be a bit more edgier than we have been for a while, so it won’t do us any harm.”
He defended Barrett’s wayward kicking, deflecting criticism of an individual, saying “it’s a team game and, in this case, I know Beauden’s feeling it and he’ll be disappointed, but maybe next week he’ll come out and kick 100 percent. That’s the way goal-kicking is”.
The ground microphones clearly picked up an assistant referee advising Owens, with time almost up, that two Springboks were offside.
Had a penalty been awarded, it would have been in front of the posts and a near certain three points, but there was no reaction from the whistleblower.
“The game’s about taking your opportunities and making sure the opposition don’t, and we didn’t do that tonight.
“The result is a credit to South Africa. I thought they played particularly well, and we’ll come out of it with a lot of things to work on.”
After the fourth round of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks have 16 points, followed by South Africa on 10, with Argentina third with eight points after beating Australia, who are last with five points.