Springboks defy the odds, in surprise victory over All Blacks
Aphid Dyantyi of South Africa scores a try during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

With some of the lowest odds ever in a New Zealand v South Africa rugby fixture, sports betting agencies will be reeling, after the Springboks defy the odds, in a superb performance over the All Blacks.

Their odds of $1.05 for a win was based on history – the Springboks had not won in New Zealand since 2009. They had dropped in World Rugby rankings and were coming off another loss to the Wallabies. So walking onto the field, the All Blacks were super confident…..maybe, overconfident. And they were surprised by the ferocity of the Springboks defence which was the key to their ability to hold out the New Zealand team.

It was not just the incredible defence though, but the visitors also scored five tremendous tries. That was against one of the teams in World Rugby whom allow the fewest tries to be scored against [New Zealand]. Even with the best efforts of skipper Kieran Read, Karl Tu’inukuafe, and Rieko Ioane, they could not complete their task.

The Springboks put more pressure on the hosts and held the advantage on the scoreboard for the majority of the game, and rightly deserved the victory.

New Zealand 34 – Tries: Rieko Ioane (2), Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor, Ardie Savea; Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2).

South Africa 36 – Tries: Aphiwe Dyanty (2), Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Cheslin Kolbe; Cons: Handre Pollard (4); Penalty: Pollard

In any game with such a close outcome, the analysis will be on players, individual acts and in what was the difference between the two sides. Six tries to two, two conversions to four. It means the points ‘left out on the field’ was probably the difference in the end. Missed opportunities from the hosts, that will be rued by the players, management, and All Blacks supporters.

Springboks defy the odds, in a surprise victory over All Blacks

Video highlights will display how the early double-strike from the All Blacks, was countered brilliantly by the Springboks. They were direct, punched holes in the line and ended the first half ahead, by 17-24.

21 unanswered points between the 20th to 35th minute was a key moment. Unheard of against the All Blacks, who switched off. That will be an issue which the All Blacks coaches will dissect, in their match review. The errors were more costly for the hosts, errors that they normally do not allow. It will be the second half that is analyzed closest by rugby commentators though.

New Zealand doubled their scoreline, with three tries adding to their cause. However, it was the tenacity of the visitor’s defence, and the fact that only one try was converted, that was the difference. Warren Whiteley put in a big tackle, and so did many of the men in green.

So against all the odds, a yellow card period that only delivered the minimal reward has to be the pivotal moment. The All Blacks were confident, but disorganized, and were unable to reap more from the yellow card. That for Springboks fans, will be one fact they are most thankful for.

International rugby games are played at the highest level. The intensity is at a peak, where any advantage can be counted against a team. So as Willie le Roux was judged to have offended in a ruck, the deflated fans might have imagined ‘here we go. The All Blacks will walk in now’. But, to the surprise of most rugby watchers, the All Blacks came up against 14 men, who defended like 15.

A sensational accomplishment.

Yellow Card costs little, as time favours Springbok victory

Ardie Savea and Jack Goodhue were the two most effective substitutions for the home side. And Savea was rewarded with a late try, that brought the scores close. It was the oncoming storm that commentators were expecting, yet it would only get the All Blacks close (on this occasion).

When le Roux returned, there were three minutes of time remaining. Most would observe that an All Blacks side could well recover the win. They had an amazing 73% of possession – most of that in the second half. Attack after attack inside the Springboks ‘red zone’ was pushed back, in a monumental display from the South Africa men.

And when the opportunity to take victory seemed to be presented to the All Blacks, as they did in 2007, they failed to use the one option in rugby union; the drop goal. A three-point reward, especially used well when on the oppositions goal line.

From all the evidence; on replaying the dying minutes, neither Beauden Barrett or super-sub Damian McKenzie, initiated the play. Even TJ Perenara – who was sadly ineffective, in offering the option – the desire to ‘win it with a try’ cost the All Blacks their eight-year winning record over South Africa.

Social media ‘blew up’ post game, with references to the player’s decision making. That factor is indisputable, although, over the years of winning, it has been the All Blacks mentality to take the five-pointer. In Super Rugby; apart from a Mitch Hunt dropped goal against the Highlanders in 2017, it is not a playbook option. So, after this loss, the question for the senior All Blacks is, who makes that decision? Kieran Read or Barrett?

Statistics alone don’t detail how Springboks defy the odds in Wellington

The OPTA statistics, the minor detail will describe the numbers and evidence below. In all normal circumstances, the performance of the All Blacks would have won them the match. But on this night, when the Springboks defy the odds, it was attitude, not statistics, that won them the game.

New Zealand v South Africa: Attack statistics

  • METRES CARRIED – NZ 633 | SA 245
  • PLAYER CARRIES – NZ 205 | SA 59
  • DEFENDERS BEATEN – NZ 33 | SA 10
  • PASSES – NZ 234 | SA 61
  • OFFLOADS – NZ 17 | SA 3
  • TURNOVERS – NZ 17 | SA 15
  • POSSESSION – New Zealand – 75.3% | South Africa – 24.7%

New Zealand v South Africa: Defence/Discipline statistics

  • TACKLES – NZ 46 | SA 226
  • OFFLOADS – NZ 10 | SA 33
  • TURNOVERS WON – NZ 5 | SA 9
  • PENALTIES CONCEDED – NZ 3 | SA 10
  • YELLOW CARDS – NZ 0 | SA 1

New Zealand v South Africa: Breakdown/Set play statistics

  • RUCKS WON – NZ 153 (98%) | SA 40 (93.2%)
  • RUCKS LOST – NZ 3 | SA 3
  • SCRUMS WON – NZ 13 | SA 7
  • LINEOUTS WON – NZ 9 (92.9%) | SA 6 (87.5%)
  • KICKING – Conversions: NZ 2/6 | SA 4/5
  • KICK SUCCESS – NZ 33% | SA 80%

It makes for incredible reading. In almost all areas, the All Blacks had the advantage, yet the failure to convert every opportunity will be a sore point. The Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus was highly emotional after his side were victorious, and thought that his team ‘rode their luck’.

He told SkySports “Well done to the team on their defensive effort. But I think the composure is settling into the team. That sometimes takes a while, and that is pleasing. But we know we were lucky at the end there.”

Players, like new winger Aphiwe Dyantyi (see main photo) and ball running hooker Malcolm Marx, both played their part. Marx remarked to SkySports “we had to be sharp tonight, but the boys showed great character tonight. We are very very fortunate to get the W tonight.

“Staying calm and collected. Your gonna make mistakes against a team like the All Blacks. So getting past those mistakes, and getting on with the job.”

Handre Pollard and Eben Etzebeth of the Springboks celebrate after winning The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springboks at Westpac Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Handre Pollard (above) had his best game, correcting early issues on defence and showing a composure missing in the past, as Eben Etzebeth and the entire squad stood taller than the odds-on favourites, New Zealand.

Luck and Composure, key elements see Springboks victorious

Some will congratulate the visitors, on their resilience. How the attitude that ‘we won’t let the All Blacks score’ saw them victorious. Luck and composure are also key elements, for Siya Kilosi and his side, to break an eight-year drought of wins in New Zealand.

For every tackle made by the South African, there were three meters ran by the New Zealand team. But in reality, many of the tackles pushed All Black players backwards. And in the post-match analysis, that factor is important.

A team going forward would usually hold the balance in almost all match outcomes. But not in Wellington on Saturday. The belief shown by the Springboks, is how they overcame the unbeaten All Blacks. They conquered a ‘self doubt’ which had crept into South African rugby – underlined by repeated losses in Super Rugby and Rugby World Cups – so the value of Saturday nights win is enormous.

Former Springbok, and hero of the 1995 Rugby World Cup win, Joel Stransky was over the moon after the win. He assessed the win as “it’s a massive evening for us. We’ve been under the pump a little bit in the last couple of seasons. The Springboks haven’t won here for a long time.

“But to come out and show that much courage, and somehow hold on for victory, is massive for us.”

In the final analysis, heart showed that it has a big part to play in rugby union still. While the continued success of the All Blacks will see them retain their number ranking in the Rugby World, the Springboks will reclaim much-needed confidence.

The return-leg in Pretoria may go the way of the All Blacks – who still lead The Rugby Championship. South Africa and Argentina [who defeated Australia 19-23] now have their opportunities at home, to face a wounded All Blacks team.

But on this night, where the Springboks defy the odds, every New Zealand rugby fan will bow and acknowledge that the more committed team won. In the context of the International game, it was the result that Rugby needed. The All Blacks will bounce back surely, but it will be a test of their metal, to how they ‘learn the lessons’ as Steve Hansen put it.

How it adds to each teams’ development, ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in 12 months time.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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