Titanic Test Match: the Key Moments

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South Africa v New Zealand - The Rugby Championship
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 07: Damian McKenzie of New Zealand during the Rugby Championship 2017 match between South Africa and New Zealand at DHL Newlands on October 07, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa bolstered their effort, in a titanic test match against New Zealand in Cape Town yesterday. Won by the All Blacks 24-25, it was a win for the Springboks–turning around the 57-0 thrashing.

After considering the domination of the New Zealand team; who almost achieved double the competition points of the second best Walabies [28 points to 15], the return of such a titanic test match is a bonus for World Rugby.

SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos had only just commented on how the unchallenged success of the All Blacks might be bad for the championship. “Absolutely it concerns me”. Gladly for administrators, stakeholders and fans alike, the Springboks ‘made a match of it’.

They rebounded, with changes in the scoreline which had fans breathless; especially after a 40 minute plus first half.

Looking at it, it was still a win for New Zealand, but it is a positive for the game. The All Blacks achieve–great for their mid-World Cup cycle–but the Springboks show some steel. They used their strengths, took advantage of injury enforced changes to the opposition, and did very well in the key moments during an exciting end to the 2017 Rugby Championship.

Titanic Test Match: the Key Moments

How the game panned out, is relative to key moments. Easily measured against much of the scoring, but also in changes in the line-up, attack and how judgements went for/against teams.

South Africa v New Zealand – DHL Newlands, Cape Town. 

48,000 fans enjoyed the match in Cape Town, the first game since 2008 for fans of both teams. They would be treated to a thrilling game, with highs and lows throughout.

5th minute – All Blacks make their first attacking play, in a breathless counter attack. Brilliant hands see Nehe Milner-Skudder burst upfield, and then share a slick offload. It falls short, but highlights their attitude: absorb, react, Attack!

16th min – Jérôme Garcès rules that Rieko Ioane loses control in a try scoring attempt, after a great run. The defence was up to the task, to disrupt a common All Black attack. One of many TMO decisions…some correct [see Ioane try] others well off the mark.

31st min – From an All Blacks counter attack, Beauden Barrett soccer-kicks a loose ball and chases for the in-goal. He, as well as the Springboks cover, miss the ball. Sitting loose, Ryan Crotty lunges at the ball–but it is not a clean attempt.

Garcès called for the TMO. In a number of replays, it seemed as if the New Zealand center did not control the ball. But incredibly, the TMO deemed it a fair try!

33rd min – Barrett is removed from the field for an HIA concussion test. Lima Sopoaga assumes the first-five role. Judged to not be fit, his replacement then saw the most time on the field, since Sopoaga’s last start for the All Blacks: 47 minutes + extra time.

Did he take the same control as Sopoaga did? Probably not, but the Springboks attitude was improved, so it was hard to say. But the Highlanders player finished with another win over South Africa, to add to his rugby memories.

“To come on so early, into the ‘Lions den’ and to have really have to play some football was awesome.”

Never Ending First Half

45th min – Weirdly, the first half had drawn out more time, with several key scrums and kicks for the sideline meaning there was no clear stoppage. Both sides made decisions to continue play, with Kieran Read later admitting that ‘egos got in the way’ of smarter rugby choices. But it sure was exciting for fans!

NOTE: almost ten minutes of additional time was played in this first half, which in reality meant the game was ten minutes longer in total.
Halftime score:  3-8

41st min – Milner-Skudder and Barrett are the first-half casualties for the All Blacks. South Africa run back out at full strength.

44th min – On full attack, the Springboks show aggression up on the opposition try line. After frequent pushes, halfback Ross Cronje took the ‘smart option’ to force the ball at the base of the posts.

60th min – Under constant pressure, the All Black defence is holding…just. From another Springbok approach, Rieko Ioane intercepts the ball and sprints 80 meters to score. He has definitely had a breakout year, and adds to his five Rugby Championship tries.

Rieko Ioane of New Zealand and Ross Cronje of the Springbok Team during the Rugby Championship 2017 match. (Photo by Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

66th min – After a key substitution, Handre Pollard repays the faith, breaking the line and handing off. The imprerssive Malcolm Marx charges ahead, and shares a perfect pass to Jean-Luc du Preez to bring the Springboks back into the match; 17-15.

Game Changing Moment

70th min – In the finest try scoring move, substitute David Havili brought the ball up to halfway. He offloaded to Damian McKenzie (see main photo), and the player with the highest meters gained in the championship blasted through the South African line to score. Perfection!

75th min – Realizing field position would generate opportunity, Sopoaga lines up a drop goal. It misses, but in charging, Damian de Allende appears to collect him late. When examined, it shows an action worthy of a penalty.

In the most critical moment of the match, referee Jérôme Garcès accepts poor advice, and hands a red card out to de Allende. Scarcely believable, the resulting penalty puts New Zealand ahead 17-25.

79th min – Down to 14 men, the Springboks have the same attitude as when they started. In a positive play, they take the attack all the way to the All Blacks line. From a close ruck, the power of Marx see’s him burrow over. Great reward.

The final try was South Africa’s but only brought the scores to 24-25, as time ran out for Allister Coetzee’s men.

Disappointed to run out of time, the fans of the Springboks must surely still be proud that their team was competitive. The number of lead changes were a tremendous example of the ferocity of how South Africa tried throughout.

And even while finishing third in the Championship, this titanic test match was a compliment to the fight for the title next year.

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New Zealand finish first, with Australia taking second place after defeating Argentina 20-37, at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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