Boks crash yet again
Springboks snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as All Blacks finish the stronger side
All Black captain Richie McCaw signed off a chapter of his great career by leading his side to a hardfought victory in Johannesburg last night. In what will probably be McCaw’s last appearance in South Africa, he scored the winning try in the 75th minute to give the New Zealanders the lead for the first time in an exciting time.
For the second time in this year’s Rugby Championship, the Springboks had victory snatched from their grasp in the dying moments after having held the upper hand for most of the game.
With a finger-numbing breeze more reminiscent of the islands of New Zealand causing a marked drop in temperature, it was ironically the Springboks who made the strongest start.
Stung by predictions that they were the underdogs, Schalk Burger’s men flew into the All Blacks and showed a heartening aspiration to move the ball wide and fast.
And it was the new captain, South Africa’s 55th, who made the key play when the Boks scored the first try after a penalty by Lima Sopoanga caused the Kiwis to draw first blood.
The high kick from the base of the forwards, which is such a staple of the Springboks, for once worked as the All Blacks were caught in possession.
When the ball came back, Burger had positioned himself in the line and threw a long, spinning pass to his left.
Bryan Habana was the receiver and the winger immediately fed the ball back in-field.
Willie le Roux picked the perfect line to cut through and score.
The Springboks seemed to have been given the licence to run and flyhalf Pollard again looked the player he was when South Africa beat the All Blacks at the same venue last year – taking the ball flat and spinning it to his backline.
The first half absolutely belonged to the Springboks, but for the scoreline.
It is said the All Blacks are most dangerous just before the half-time break and the Boks allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by their determination to score.
Strong runs by Sopoanga and Ma’a Nonu and good linking by Aaron Smith made the incursion and Ben Smith ran in the try.
It had been cut-and-thrust in the first half, but right after the break the Springboks’ new young star Jesse Kriel cut back devastatingly off a short pass from Pollard and went clean through to the line.
This try restored the Boks’ lead, 17-10, but almost from the kick-off All Blacks hooker Dane Coles prised open the poor Bok defence and it was back to level-pegging.
The game was starting to open up and the match officials drew the ire of the crowd in the 55th minute when the TMO denied Lood de Jager a try remarkable similar to one the awarded against the Boks in Brisbane the previous week.
The Boks were hard on attack, however, and Pollard restored their lead with a penalty.
However, the All Blacks are known for finishing strongly and a clever lineout ploy gave McCaw the opening to charge over for the winning try.
HUSTLED Sprinbok Handre Pollard is tackled by New Zealand’s forwards during The Castle Lager Rugby Championship match at the Emirates Airline Park yesterday