CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XA­BAN­ISA at New­lands Sta­dium sports@city­press.co.za

They couldn’t quite get over the line, but the Spring­boks put in the kind of per­for­mance that would have given come­back spe­cial­ist Lazarus a lot to think about.

In a game that em­phat­i­cally re­stored the no­tion that Al­lis­ter Coet­zee’s men can, when the mood takes them, at some point in the fu­ture be con­sid­ered the equals of the all-con­quer­ing New Zealand All Blacks, the ghosts of the 57-0 de­feat by this very same All Blacks side just three weeks ago were well and truly laid to rest.

What with the All Blacks hav­ing wrapped up the Rugby Cham­pi­onship with their win last week­end, this was sup­posed to be a dead rub­ber.

But not only would the Boks not have it, the All Blacks, who lost the in­flu­en­tial Beau­den Bar­rett and Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der to in­jury in the first half, put in a re­sponse wor­thy of cham­pi­ons in quelling the hosts’ re­bel­lion.

In the end, New­lands was treated to a won­der­ful toeto-toe af­fair that had it all – three tries apiece, pas­sion, fear­less­ness, a 50-minute first half thanks to a star­ing con­test well af­ter the hooter had gone and a red card (Damian de Al­lende) five min­utes from time.

In com­fort­ably one of the best in­ter­na­tional games of the year, the Boks have to take credit for hav­ing the bloody mind­ed­ness to bring back the idea that they are the All Blacks’ great­est foes.

When they look at the tape, they’ll also find that their own mis­takes (a charged-down kick, an in­ter­cept pass and an aim­less up and un­der) gave the hosts all three of their tries.

Even though the score at the end was, con­sid­er­ing the ghosts of Al­bany, a miserly 8-3 in favour of the visi­tors at half-time, it was a half long enough for a full game.

Not only did it last a full 50 min­utes as both sides went tit-for-tat in all the ex­changes, the 47 342 peo­ple crammed into this old soul of a sta­dium were treated to a game a heck of a lot more open than the score­line sug­gested.

The Boks’ de­fence, which saw the men in green chase down ev­ery­thing in black as if it was mak­ing off with cell­phones and wal­lets, was largely re­spon­si­ble for a mar­gin much tighter than the 31-0 in Al­bany a month ago.

In the first 22 min­utes alone, the visi­tors had shelled four op­por­tu­ni­ties where de­fen­sive pres­sure, not to men­tion at­ti­tude, by the Spring­boks made them feel

like they al­ways needed an ex­tra pass to be able to score.

That said, the Boks also cre­ated a lot of hard yakka for them­selves by turn­ing over the ball to a team that doesn’t kick such gifts away and the kind of kick­ing game that was so in­ac­cu­rate it al­most al­ways meant they wouldn’t get pos­ses­sion back.

Thank­fully, the Bok ef­fort wasn’t solely based on putting their bod­ies on the line.

A big first scrum was fol­lowed by two scrum­ming on the an­gle penal­ties by Ruan Dreyer, with debu­tant tight head prop Wilco Louw’s in­tro­duc­tion in the 51st minute sug­gest­ing the hosts’ scrum is­sues may well be a thing of the past.

The line-out, led by cap­tain Eben Etze­beth and Lood de Jager, was im­proved out of sight, with none of the grem­lins that saw them lose five on their own throw-in last time.

Etze­beth didn’t only lead the aerial as­sault, he was the Boks’ men­ace and mer­chant of go-for­ward on the ground, with Steven Kit­shoff, Pi­eter-Steph du Toit and Mal­colm Marx lend­ing their shoul­ders to the gain line cause.

Coet­zee’s dis­jointed-look­ing loose-trio of Fran­cois Louw, Siya Kolisi and Du Toit matched their much­vaunted New Zealand coun­ter­parts, with the for­mer show­ing in­tel­li­gence out of po­si­tion and the lat­ter proving his de­trac­tors about a lock play­ing at blind­side wrong with a worka­holic per­for­mance.

One man who would have left the arena with ques­tion marks would have been fly half El­ton Jan­tjies, whose charged down kick, which led to the visi­tors’ first try, and missed penalty could well be said to be the dif­fer­ence on the scoreboard.

CLOSE The Sping­boks’ Jesse Kriel goes for the ball dur­ing their Rugby Cham­pi­onship match against the All Blacks at New­lands yes­ter­day





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