Boks spring shock
South Africa ambush the All Blacks
This was the result world rugby needed. After the British and Irish Lions won the second Test in Wellington last year, South Africa raided the same venue yesterday for their first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand for nine years, scoring five tries, and then emptied the tank in defence to record a richly deserved victory.
South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus has only been in the job a few months but can already point to a series win over England and victory over the All Blacks on their home patch, should he need to silence any doubters.
Incredibly, it was Erasmus who suggested before this weekend that he might be out of a job had the Springboks lost in Wellington.
One image summed up his side’s effort: the sight at the end of a sobbing Pieter-Steph du Toit overcome by the magnitude of the Springboks’ achievement.
The flanker contributed 28 of South Africa’s eye-watering tally of 226 tackles, a large portion of them stemming from a desperate defensive stand in the closing stages when they were down to 14 men after a yellow card for Wasps full-back Willie le Roux. New Zealand, by contrast, made only 46 tackles in the entire Test.
“All we wanted to do today was give our best, give 100 per cent for each other and make sure the guy next to you respects you after the whistle,” said Springboks captain Siya Kolisi.
“I can’t say much. Our main thing is effort in our team. We’ve let ourselves down in the last couple of games. I think we showed a little bit of what we can do tonight. We should be proud of ourselves, but there’s plenty more work to do.”
The All Blacks’ many mistakes in this Test would have been rendered insignificant had Beauden Barrett or Damian McKenzie remained in the pocket for a drop goal in the final minutes, when the All Blacks’ forwards were setting a strong platform up ahead deep in South Africa’s 22. Why neither stayed in position for the winning strike is a mystery. The situation screamed out for a dropped goal.
This was a night to forget for Barrett off the kicking tee. He landed a woeful two out of six kicks. The conversion needed to tie the game after Ardie Savea’s 73rd-minute try hit a post.
For all his undoubted talent, Barrett’s goal-kicking here was a hindrance that will need to be rectified before next year’s Rugby World Cup. Jordie, his younger brother, may end up being the preferred option – if he stays as full-back.
Head coach Steve Hansen might not be prepared to admit it now, but he will be happier to address the dropped-goal fuddle and goal-kicking errors this week rather than any nearer to Japan in 2019.
The outcome might have been unfamiliar for New Zealand but the start certainly was, two stunning passes by Beauden Barrett and Codie Taylor setting up tries for Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith in the opening 15 minutes to give the All Blacks a 12-0 lead.
Cue the traditional collapse from the away side, except this time powerful carries by the Springbok forwards created an overlap for rising star Aphiwe Dyantyi to score his first try.
What followed was a sign that the All Blacks were not quite at the races.
Le Roux’s grubber was hacked upfield into touch by Dyantyi, with Jordie Barrett retreating to take a quick line-out. His long pass infield to Rieko Ioane took a horrible bounce and Le Roux was on hand to swoop in and score, giving South Africa the lead for the first time.
By half-time, South Africa held a 24-17 lead, Malcolm Marx’s try off a rolling maul and Handre Pollard’s penalty bookending a score for Rieko Ioane.
Cheslin Kolbe’s interception score extended the visitors’ margin, but once Ioane had scored his second – now on 18 tries in 18 Tests – the familiar New Zealand comeback felt imminent. But a well-worked second score for Dyantyi made it 36-24.
Tries by Taylor and Savea closed the deficit, but Barrett missed both conversions, South Africa clinging on in defence to their two-point lead despite Le Roux’s yellow card for a cynical offside.
All the ingredients seemed to be on hand for the All Blacks to find a way to win, as they so often do. Not this time, though. The rematch in Pretoria next month will be fascinating.
Perhaps by then, Beauden Barrett will have worked through a few dropped-goal scenarios in training.
“We threw everything at them. My boys kept working hard, but the South Africans defended outstandingly well and obviously deserved their win,” All Blacks captain Kieran Read said.
Standing proud: South Africa’s Jesse Kriel celebrates victory over the All Blacks – their first in New Zealand for nine years