AWESOME ALL BLACKS WRAP UP TITLE EARLY
New Zealand seal the Rugby Championship with two games to spare
N ew Zealand demonstrated yet again why they are the dominant force in world rugby by producing a scintillating second-half display to crush South Africa and secure the Rugby Championships crown with two games to spare.
For once it seemed as though the All Blacks would be pushed as the Springboks opened up an early lead thanks to Bryan Habana’s 66th Test try.
Even at the break it remained close with New Zealand leading 15-10 thanks to tries from Israel Dagg and Julien Savea.
But the second period saw the home side outscore the Boks 26-3, with Ben Smith, Ardie Savea (right), Sam Whitelock and TJ Perenara all crossing the whitewash.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one,” said All Blacks captain Kieran Read. “The Boks have got a lot of history, especially in All Blacks-Springboks games.
“We certainly had to work for it. I’m proud of the lads. We showed a lot of intent, especially in the first half without some accuracy and probably cranked it up in the second half.”
SAVEA BROTHERS A REAL THREAT
The All Blacks were simply unstoppable in the second 40 minutes as they made the most of their territorial chances.
While the Springboks, coming off successive losses to Argentina and Australia, played with real courage they lacked the finishing ability of New Zealand.
The Savea brothers looked a threat throughout, while hooker Dan Coles was sensational in the offload, turning provider for New Zealand’s last three tries. “Playing a side like New Zealand on the day, they were great and we have to give them that credit,” said South Africa skipper Adriaan Strauss.
“There’s a lot of hard work still ahead for us.”
While South Africa are gradually improving, New Zealand are hitting new heights. They are now unbeaten in 44 Tests at home since their last loss to the Springboks in 2009 – and in 15 Tests home and away since they were last beaten by Australia.
Having already secured crushing wins over the Wallabies (42-8 and 29-9) and Argentina (57-22), New Zealand could take their foot off the gas in their remaining two fixtures.
However, it is more likely they will want to continue to dominate against South Africa and Argentina as they prepare for a home series next year against the British and Irish Lions.
“It is never hard getting up for a game,” stressed Read. “We love putting on the jersey and representing our country.”
WORK IN PROGRESS
Even more worrying for their rivals is the fact that this All Blacks team is still somewhat of a work in progress after losing more than 800 Test caps since their triumphant World Cup campaign. Despite losing Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, New Zealand have crushed Wales and now secured the Rugby Championship crown. Even coach Steve Hansen has been taken aback with how well the team has coped under new captain Read. “I knew that we had some really talented people but we had also lost a lot of talent,” said Hansen. “The thing we lost the most was experience. What I have been so pleased with is how Reado has stepped up and his leadership group have gone to another level.”
AN INTIMIDATING SIGHT: The All Blacks, led by captain Kieran Read (centre), have won 15 straight Test matches