Heartbreak for brave Boks at Newlands
Heartbreak. Absolute heartbreak.
Never has a side deserved to win a Test more than the Springboks did at Newlands on Saturday yet somehow they came out on the wrong end of the result because they were up against the most ruthless team in the history of the sport.
The Springboks showed the response South Africans wanted to see after being mauled by the All Blacks in Albany three weeks ago, but it wasn’t enough as they went down 25-24 in a match that will sit alongside the greatest in the 95 played between these nations.
Two critical mistakes – a charged down kick and an intercept – led to tries for All Black centre Ryan Crotty and wing Rieko Ioane – that proved the difference.
Both sides scored three tries but a penalty against the Boks after Damian de Allende earned a red card for a late hit with an elbow on All Black flyhalf Lima Sopoaga gave the visitors an eight-point cushion with three minutes to play.
The Boks response was to score a try from a rolling maul through the immense Malcolm Marx, but they didn’t have enough time to score again as the All Blacks left Newlands with a seventh win in a 10th visit.
The first half ran over time for nearly nine minutes in a breathless period of play that saw possession change hands about five times. The Boks were simply not happy to end the half without something more for their efforts and the All Blacks refused to budge.
It was a thunderous period that could serve as a future vignette of the entire match.
Once again the Boks fashioned chances and once again they failed to take them while the All Blacks also made several uncharacteristic mistakes in the face of relentless Bok pressure.
In a match filled with so much commitment singling out individuals seems unfair but there were some standouts.
For the Boks hooker Marx was colossal in the loose, stealing two ball in the first half. Captain Eben Etzebeth and flank Pieter-Steph du Toit were also excellent in getting the home team over the advantage line and loosehead Steven Kitshoff was simply spectacular.
All Black fullback Damian McKenzie was a constant, buzzing threat from deep while wing Nehe Milner-Skudder was hard to corral before a shoulder injury in those frantic minutes at the end of the first half ended his match.
The point of difference on the day was marginal and came down to a couple of errors and the All Black’ composure under pressure.
Boks flyhalf Elton Jantjies’ charged down kick by Beauden Barrett on the halfway line which ended in a scrappy try for All Black centre Ryan Crotty, which separated the teams at halftime.
The Boks hit the front almost immediately after halftime through a try from scrumhalf Ross Cronje after a great build-up that started with Marx bursting down the touchline from a short lineout. There was much more patience in the build-up.
NZ wing Rieko Ioane collected an intercept after the ball came off Courtnall Skosan in the 59th minute and McKenzie added a wonderful solo try when he craved a hole through the Bok defence from deep.
South Africa – Tries: Ross Cronje, Jean-Luc du Preez, Malcolm Marx. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Handre Pollard. Penalty: Jantjies New Zealand – Tries: Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie. Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2). Penalties: Beauden Barrett, Sopoaga.