Born-again Boks push All Blacks to the very edge

The Rugby Paper - - News Rugby Championship - ■ By BREN­DAN GAL­LAGHER

SOUTH Africa lost a Test match but won back their self-re­spect in a barn­storm­ing game that show­cased the Rugby Cham­pi­onship at its best.

For the first time in too long the Boks breathed fire and fury and, in Mal­colm Marx and Eben Etze­beth, they have two totem pole play­ers to gather around go­ing for­ward.

As for New Zealand, we can only again ad­mire their fit­ness, in­ten­sity and knack of pro­duc­ing some­thing spe­cial when nec­es­sary. And also, it should be added, for their abil­ity to avoid de­tec­tion when up to no good at ruck time and the so-called clear out.

New Zealand shaded the pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory in the first half but this was a dif­fer­ent Spring­boks side al­to­gether from the team that shipped 57 points against the All Blacks at Al­bany last month.

Fe­ro­cious in de­fence, they chased the Ki­wis down re­morse­lessly while there was much more snap and phys­i­cal­ity when the Boks did at­tack.

El­ton Jan­tjies and Beau­den Bar­rett swapped early penal­ties be­fore New Zealand tried to turn the screw as they upped the tempo and looked to clear out the rucks as quickly as pos­si­ble. Some­times too quickly.

Scott Bar­rett was ex­tremely lucky to stay on the pitch as he launched him­self into one ruck, shoul­der first, arms by his side right in front of Jerome Garces. Re­mark­ably the French ref­eree saw noth­ing wrong with the highly il­le­gal chal­lenge.

Of­fi­cial­dom was also on New Zealand’s side just af­ter the half hour when Beau­den Bar­rett charged down a Jan­tjies clear­ance kick and the two fly-halves raced for the line af­ter Bar­rett hacked on. Jan Ser­fontein came across to chal­lenge for the touch­down along with Bar­rett and both missed, as Bar­rett then held Ser­fontein back by the arm pre­vent­ing him chal­leng­ing again.

Mean­while Ryan Crotty dived in and although touch­ing the ball in the air – pos­si­bly knock­ing it on – missed it with his hands and arms when it made con­tact with the turf, though you could ar­gue there was pres­sure from the chest. Garces was clearly un­con­vinced but af­ter a lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion by English TMO Rowan Kitt a try, to the sur­prise of most, was awarded.

As half-time ap­proached the Boks fi­nally se­cured some good field po­si­tion and started to en­joy them­selves as they went through the phases. So much so that when the hooter for 40 min­utes went they car­ried on at­tack­ing fu­ri­ously un­til they turned the ball over.

New Zealand picked up on the vibe and then at­tacked sav­agely them­selves be­fore be­ing pe­nalised on the Boks line.

Surely it was time to get down the tun­nel but no, Etze­beth went for touch, as the law now al­lows, as South Africa con­tin­ued to at­tack man­i­cally. And then he did the same when New Zee­land were again pe­nalised. Only af­ter nine min­utes and 56 sec­onds of added time was play brought to a close when New Zealand earned a turn over and fi­nally put the ball out of play.

There was no let up af­ter the break with South Africa tak­ing the lead when Ross Cronje nipped in by the post only for Rieko Ioane to sprint 80 yards to score a star­tling in­ter­cep­tion try when the Boks at­tacked.

Next, re­place­ment JeanLuc du Preez scored af­ter yet more fine work from Marx be­fore Damian McKen­zie scored the try of the game with a scorch­ing 50 yard run af­ter South Africa had un­wisely kicked to the AB’s back three.

South Africa looked buried when Damian de Al­lende was harshly sent off for a late tackle on Lima Sopoaga, who rather milked the sit­u­a­tion, be­fore step­ping up to land the penalty. Eight points be­hind, the Boks con­tin­ued to breathe de­fi­ance and MOM Marx scored a well de­served try right at the death.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Some­thing to cheer: Boks cel­e­brate Ross Cronje’s try

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