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Springboks lose to All Blacks in epic Rugby Championship clash

New Zealand's Rieko Ioane (L) runs on his way to score a try during the Rugby test match between South Africa (Springboks) and New Zealand (All Blacks) at Newlands Rugby stadium on October 7, 2017 in Cape Town. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Springboks were edged 24-25 by the All Blacks in a thriller at Newlands in Cape Town, ending the Rugby Championship undefeated.

The Springboks, after record loses to the All Blacks, finally delivered a performance worthy of the famous jersey.

The lengthy first-half went into the 51st minute after Andries Coetzee failed to kick a penalty into touch.

We will never know if the added time cost South Africa, but not taking the three points did.

Instead of going into the break with a two-point deficit, the Boks trailed by five.

Steve Hansen’s men had racked up half-centuries twice on the Boks in the past two years, with a 41-13 drubbing sandwiched in-between.

No-one gave the Springboks a chance after the 57-0 thrashing in the Rugby Championship in Albany last month.

South Africa had the better of the territory and possession, both at 63 percent and matched the Kiwis for tries.

They turned the ball over less, won almost double the rucks and three of New Zealand’s mauls, losing none.

The defenders beaten was 27 to 29 in the visitor’s favour; offloads in favour of the Boks at 12 to 11.

Despite the farce of a red card, the Boks discipline was exceptional. They conceded six penalties while Hansen’s team conceded double the amount.

The Boks’ forwards were immense, especially Malcolm Marx, who is Bismarck du Plessis 2.0. The hooker was ferocious with the ball in hand and at the breakdown.

Sam Cane and Liam squire had no answer for Marx, who dominated the rucks. His lineout throwing is his only weak point.

Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lood de Jager carried their team forward, busting tackles and enforcing their will on their opponents.

Ruan Dreyer struggled with Kane Hames and Dane Coles, conceding costly penalties.

South Africa’s midfield has been porous, but Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel kept the black tide back.

Sloppy play cost the hosts twice. Ryan Crotty’s opening try, and Rieko Ioane’s opportunistic score from his own 22.

Both scores were avoidable, although they could do nothing about Damian McKenzie’s try. The fullback is electric.

How did he not start against the British and Irish Lions?

Aaron Smith controlled the tempo of the game, something Cronje cannot do. The crowd was not impressed with the scrumhalf’s kicking away of possession.

But this has been an issue with the Boks going back years. their inability to control the game since Fourie du Preez retired, is an indictment on the coaches and their tactics.

Every time Jantjies, Coetzee or Cronje kicked the ball away, New Zealand counter-attacked. This is their great strength, but the Boks’ don’t seem to know.

New Zealand threatened early but could break the Springboks’ resolve.

Jantjies and Beauden Barrett traded penalties inside the opening quarter, but the Kiwis were the better team.

They held South Africa’s early intensity in check, trying to hit them on from deep and on the counter-attack.

The Boks’ halfbacks gave the visitors ample opportunity with poor tactical kicking, something that has plagued them.

Nehe Milner-skudder and Ioane were finding space in the wide channels, but could not find a way past some stubborn scramble defence.

Jantjies had a chance to give his team a 25th-minute lead, but he pushed his penalty wide.

Hames was having his way with Dreyer, who twice conceded scrum-penalties in the opening half-hour.

The Kiwis might have had the upper hand in the set-pieces, but they struggled to enforce themselves at the breakdown.

Marx was everywhere, making his presence felt, winning penalties which halted New Zealand’s momentum.

But as always, unforced errors cost South Africa.

Serfontein had won a loose ball at the halfway line, but instead of capitalising, Jantjies had his clearance charged down by Beauden Barrett.

Kriel tried to get back, but his poor handling gifted Crotty a simple try which gave his team a 3-8 lead.

Referee Jerome Garces conferred with Rowan Kitt, the TMO, before awarding the centre the try.

Crotty looked to not have control in the grounding, but the officials thought otherwise.

There were five seconds left on the clock when Coles lost the ball forward in a maul. This started one of the most bizarre and longest passages of play after the hooter.

Both teams looked for a late score, but every time they got into the ‘red-zone’, they coughed up possession.

The biggest moment was Etzebeth not taking a shot at goal, instead of kicking for the corner.

The Springboks came out firing after the interval.

From a lineout on the halfway line, two minutes after half-time, the Springboks went 19 phases before Cronje gave them the lead.

South Africa bashed and crashed their way into New Zealand’s 22. Etzebeth, Jantjies, Marx and Sefontein all went close before the scrumhalf darted through to score.

The simple conversion gave the Boks a 10-8 lead, which they kept. Sopoaga, on for Beauden Barrett, who was off for an HIA, missed a 51st-minute penalty.

It was end-to-end, as both teams tried for another breakthrough. It duly came at the end of the third quarter.

A costly mistake by the Boks saw Ioane race 80 metres to give the All blacks a five-point lead.

The Boks hit back five minutes’ later with a well-worked, 12-phase try by substitute flanker Jean-Luc du Preez.

It came from Handre Pollard’s break and offload to Marx, who drew the defender and sent Du Preez away for his second Test try.

Pollard converted to put the Boks back in front 17-15 with 15 minutes to play.

The pressure and intensity started to take its toll on South Africa, but somehow, they held firm.

The World Champions are great because their conditioning in the last 20 minutes is superior.

Out of nothing, McKenzie combined with David Havili, as the All Blacks regained the lead with 10 minutes remaining.

De Allende was then sent after Sopoaga’s missed drop-goal attempt, who kicked the resulting penalty, making it a two-score game.

The Springboks, tiring and with 14 men, went down the field, Marx scoring in the corner.

But it was not to be as the visitors held on for the win.

Final Score: South Africa 24 (3) New Zealand 25 (8)

Scorers

South Africa
Tries – Cronje, Du Preez, Marx
Pen – Jantjies
Con – Jantjies (2), Pollard
Drop –
Cards – De Allende (Red, 76th minute)

New Zealand
Tries – Crotty, R. Ioane, McKenzie
Pen – B. Barrett, Sopoaga
Con – Sopoaga (2)
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Ref 1: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Ref 2: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Teams

Match Officials
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Ref 1: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Ref 2: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Teams

South Africa

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.

New Zealand

15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.

Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 David Havili