An absorbing game of Test match rugby in Wellington saw the Springboks surprise the All Blacks, defeating them by two points.
Springboks surprise All Blacks
The game was a high scoring one and the score sheet reflects that. The biggest surprise was the way that the Springboks acknowledged that no-one could beat the All Blacks three points at a time. They would have to score tries. They scored five of them and the All Blacks shipped the most points they have ever conceded on home soil.
New Zealand 34 South Africa 36
New Zealand – Tries: Rieko Ioane, (2), Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor, Ardie Savea Conversions: Beauden Barrett (2)
South Africa – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi (2), Willie le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Cheslin Kolbe Conversions: Handre Pollard (4) Penalty: Pollard
We take a look at a few key points coming out of this game.
The result rugby needed
The All Blacks have dominated world rugby for years. The ever-controversial New Zealand rugby pundit Chris Rattue was as bold to say that “They might as well hand over the Webb Ellis Cup now“. If rugby was to become that predictable, it would be the worst thing possible for the game. Yes. The All Blacks are the best team on the planet. Are they unbeatable? Saturday’s result gives us the answer. No.
A job very well done by our Springboks for the fierce fight and victory against the tough All Blacks. The determination you demonstrated today, away from home, is beyond fulfilling. Our team showed true character from start to finish. Continue to fly the flag, you make us proud. pic.twitter.com/5LKH0g7FAj
— President Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) September 15, 2018
The nay sayers will stay negative
The Springboks have been in a bad space for a few years. This is a result of a player drain, poor coaching at a Super Rugby level and some questionable selections, especially in the Alister Coetzee era.
Those who hang on to the negativity will say that the Springboks were lucky to win. But that would not be fair on the Springboks, who set this game up with a hugely improved defensive attitude.
There will be comments that they were lucky that Beauden Barrett missed two conversion attempts. That is the risk that the All Blacks take in selecting an inventive play maker such as Barrett.
The Springboks victory was built on their defense. Defense has been their weakness in 2018, but they turned this around in Wellington. They made an astonishing 226 tackles during the game. This is opposed to the mere 46 the All Blacks made. Pieter-Steph du Toit headed the tackle count with 28, with Franco Mostert weighing in with 23. Their one on one tackling was also much more accurate and they looked to dominate the tackle as opposed to passive defense as was the ploy previously.
The aggressive defense heaped pressure onto the All Blacks and forced them into errors on attack. The Springboks repelled numerous attacks that lesser teams would have succumbed to.
All Black decision making
The All Blacks were put under pressure by the Springboks and it showed in their decision making once they had to chase the game. Most times, they played a narrow game when attacking the Springbok line. The Springbok defense more often than not drove them backwards in the tackle, forcing them into a number of uncharacteristic handling errors.
With the Boks being more tactically aware on defense than they have been in recent times, they also took advantage of a poorly executed quick lineout by Jordie Barrett. Willie le Roux anticipated what was happening and intercepted the loose ball to score.
The New Zealand way
As Erasmus alluded to in the post-match press conference, it is the New Zealand way to go for the try to win the game. This was another decision that cost them the game. The final hooter had already sounded and the All Blacks were attacking the Springbok line. Beauden Barrett was standing in the pocket in front of the poles, ready for the drop kick to win the game. The All Blacks chose to run the ball. The rest, as they say, is history.
This result may have been a shock for the All Blacks, but for the Springboks it was a significant result. They needed something positive to work off to build momentum and hopefully turn the corner and rebuild the reputation of the once revered Springbok emblem.
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