Elton Jantjies nailed a penalty after the final hooter as world champions Springboks snapped a three-game losing streak to stun the All Blacks.
GOLD COAST – There was heartbreak no more for the Springboks when they scrapped their way to an epic 31-29 victory over the All Blacks on Australia’s Gold Coast to end a three-match losing streak and to reinforce the fact that they are very much a champion side.
The Boks return home to South Africa now with their heads held high and with so many critics the world over silenced for the unrelenting criticism that the Boks are a boring side.
Well, not even the most crazed adrenalin junkie could have found anything remotely dull about this cliffhanger.
The sentiment going into the match was that the Boks would struggle to replicate their effort of the week before, that the All Blacks would not allow themselves to play badly two weeks in a row, and that the Boks would have one foot on the plane after a lifetime in a bio-bubble.
Well the Boks made a mockery of that by coming out of the blocks bristling with intent —there is no such thing as mental staleness when these two teams do battle — and they immediately showed that they were going to have better balance in their play by hoisting the ball from slow possession and then keeping it in hand when they had momentum.
And that greater willingness to attack produced handsome reward when the Boks preyed on an error on the edge of the All Blacks’ 22 and sleight of hand by Lukhanyo Am — a behind-the-back pass to Sbu Nkosi— created a lovely score for Damian de Allende in the sixth minute.
Unfortunately, Handré Pollard missed the conversion to add to a penalty miss two minutes earlier and the All Blacks got on the board straight after when the referee (erroneously) judged Am to have played the ball offside at a ruck when it was clearly out. Jordie Barrett made no mistake with the kick.
Pollard’s kicking radar came right in the 10th minute when the All Blacks were caught impeding Makazole Mapimpi in his chase of a kick but, criminally, Willie le Roux dropped the restart, the All Blacks gathered the ball, Beaudon Barrett kick-passed to Sevu Reece, and the Flying Fijian scored in the corner.
It was ruthless punishment of an elementary error.
The Boks came roaring back and a bullocking charge by Bongi Mbonambi was halted agonisingly short of the line.
There was consolation for the Boks when Pollard kicked a penalty for offsides at a ruck but the All Blacks the made the most of poor defending first by by Faf de Klerk on Jordie Barrett, who came roaring through the midfield, and then Willie le Roux’s effort on try-scorer Ardie Savea was poor.
The All Blacks went up a gear and yet another error by poor Willie saw Anton Lienert-Brown stopped just short of the corner flag by a superb cover-tackle by Sbu Nkosi, but then the Bok line-out throw was contested, the ball spurted loose and scrumhalf Brad Weber pounced on it and darted over in the corner.
The All Blacks now had a nine-point lead and once again they had proved how deadly they are in the last 10 minutes of a half.
The Boks had the last say before half time a Scott Barrett no-arms tackle translated into three points for Pollard and at 20-14 at the break a thrilling second-half was in store.
The Boks started the second half like a house on fire and five minutes of domination – including a fine break by De Allende – culminated in a Pollard penalty.
And in a timely substitution – in fact it should have been made before kick-off! – Frans Steyn relieved the hapless Le Roux and he immediately kicked a monster field kick from the Boks’ 22 to the opposite end of the ground and the resulting Bok pressure turned into a neat finish at the corner flag for Mapimpi, to give the Boks a 22-20 lead.
Sadly, there was no conversion by Pollard and soon after Elton Jantjies came on for injured Sbu Nkosi and he duly kicked over penalty to give the Boks a five-point lead at 25-20, this coming after a siege on the New Zealand line saw them go offside.
In a setback for the Boks, Siya Kolisi, who had been playing another stormer, was forced off by a heavy knock to the field and on came Franco Mostert in the 55th minute.
In a crucial moment in the game, 14 minutes from time Frans Steyn was adjudged to have late tackled Jordie Barrett and the latter got up off the pitch and nailed the penalty to narrow it to 25-23.
Steyn put in a massive hit on Damian Mackenzie but then was harshly penalised for not rolling away. Barrett kicked his team into a 26-25 lead but it was short-lived because Elton Jantjies snapped over a drop goal only to bungle the restart and Barrett again put his team into a lead but it was not a match-clinching one.
The Boks refused to give up and when Duane Vermeulen won a turnover as the clock hit 80 minutes, the Boks got into the New Zealand 22 and worked the penalty for a heroic win.
Springboks – Tries: Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi. Penalties: Handré Pollard (4), Elton Jantjies (2). Drop Goal: Jantjies.
All Blacks – Tries: Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Brett Weber. Penalties: Jordie Barrett (4). Conversions: Jordie Barrett.