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Jim Kayes: The All Blacks great escape

Jim Kayes     07 Oct 2018    

That’s not to suggest a win against South Africa, especially in the fortress of Loftus Versfeld, isn’t something to cherish, because it is.

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Wins in the Republic are hard fought. Victories at altitude even more so. And against a resurgent Springboks side buoyed by their win in Wellington, this was always going to be a ferocious Test.

And so it proved with South Africa the dominant team; the All Blacks chasing for all of the match.

They never led till Richie Mo’unga converted Ardie Savea’s try with the full time hooter ringing in his ears, the massive crowd stunned at by what had happened in an incredible final 10 minutes.

The All Blacks had trailed 23-6 after 52 minutes and 30-13 with 20 to play but somehow stayed in the match, setting up a thrilling finish.

That they scored twice in the final eight minutes shows the tenacity of this team and put questions raised by the defeat in Wellington behind them.

The All Blacks were criticised after that match for lacking composure when it mattered and for missing their chances in the final few minutes.

Kieran Read’s leadership was under the miscope and the knives were out for Beauden Barrett as a goalkicker.

There should be no qualms about the skipper now while Barrett and Mo’unga have shown concerns around goalkicking have eased.

It was composure, patience and discipline that created the final two tries in Pretoria with a Houdini effort to rival the late wins against Australia in Dunedin last year and Ireland in Dublin in 2013.

South Africa will be devastated.  They did all they could to win, dominating the breakdowns, strong in the set pieces and good with the ball in hand.

These Springboks are so far from the 10-man teams of yesteryear it’s almost ridiculous. They play a wonderfully attacking style using their monstrous men to good effect and with pace and skills out wide.

At times, especially in the first half, they had the All Blacks rattled, forcing them into silly errors and giving away a stream of penalties.

They made seven clean breaks to the All Blacks’ four and beaten 25 defenders to New Zealand’s 14.
But, just as they were in Wellington, the Springboks were outscored in tries with the All Blacks scoring four to South AFrica’s three - and this time the tries were converted.

What will hurt the most for the Springboks is that they will know this was a match they definitely could have won and probably should have. Yet they didn’t.

The joy of victory for the All Blacks was there for all to see as the final whistle blew.
They knew they had been outplayed for much of the match. Yet they had stayed in the contest and conspired to create an unlikely victory.

It will do wonders for their confidence and add to the depth of experiences they can call on should they face a similar test at next year’s World Cup. Crucially, in that respect, was Mo’unga’s role as he showed he has ice in his veins when he kicked the match winning conversion.

Savea was also immense off the bench, helping to restore some balance at the breakdown and strong with the ball in hand.

Scott Barrett, who scored the try to get the All Blacks in touch with five minutes to play, was also impressive switching from lock to blindside late in the Test.

There was plenty of chatter before the Test in Wellington about whether the Springboks had slipped in rugby’s pecking order.

Were they still a team to be feared and the All Blacks most worthy opponent?

International rugby is too small for such an important team team to fade and the All Blacks need to be tested, for the result to be in doubt.

South Africa might have lost in Pretoria, but they showed in empathic fashion that the Boks are back in business.

That’s good for them, the All Blacks and the international game.