All Blacks edge Springboks in Ellis Park epic




New Zealand beat South Africa 23-35 in a pulsating Rugby Championship Test at a packed Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

The All Blacks survived a fierce Springbok fight back to snatch a memorable victory at the famous old ground.

This victory will ease the pressure on under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster, but despite the final scoreline, this was no walkover.

The Springboks had no answer to the All Blacks’ fast-paced intensity, and their starting XV was not up to standard.

The Boks’ fabled “Bomb Squad” had to enter proceedings before halftime to stop the bleeding. This defeat will hurt the current World Champions, who were not up to it.

The former World Champs were good, not great, but it was enough as the home team started and finished poorly.

Two late tries from David Havili and Scott Barrett ended the All Blacks’ worst losing streak since 1998. The men in black had lost five of their previous six Tests and three in a row.

The Kiwis scored four tries to two in a riveting encounter in the Republic.

Sam Cane and Samson Taukei’aho both crossed in the first half before Havili and Barrett claimed the points.

Richie Mo’unga, in for Beauden Barrett, kicked three penalties and three conversions (15 pts) in an assured display at first-five.

Handré Pollard was again flawless from the tee, kicking three penalties and converting both Lukhanyo Am’s and Makazole Mapimpi’s tries for 13 points.

The Springboks fought back from 15-nil down to lead 23-21 after 68 minutes in an end-to-end Test.

But Havili finished a sensational spell of play to give the All Blacks a five-point lead with five minutes remaining. Barrett added the dagger.

The All Blacks’ pace and intensity saw Ian Foster’s men take a two-tries-to-one 15-10 lead into the shed.

South Africa dominated the first quarter but failed to turn pressure and opportunities into points.

New Zealand, still looking a bit flaky with the ball in hand, managed to get some territory and punished the Boks with two superb scores to lead 15-0 after 35 minutes.

Cane and Taukei’aho both crashed over within five minutes of each other after Mo’unga opened the scoring with a 25th-minute penalty.

Things looked ominous for the Springboks. As the interval approached, Am – who went close twice before – danced down the touchline, slipping Caleb Clark’s tackle to score his first Test try against the Kiwis, with three minutes remaining to halftime.

Pollard slotted the touchline conversion before nailing a long-range penalty from inside his own half after the hooter. Pollard’s 56-metre goal kept the Boks in the contest as they trailed by five.

Pollard struck again after the break to make it 13-15. Mo’unga stopped the bleeding when Jasper Wiese pinged for a late tackle after not hearing the whistle. A poor call from the ref.

New Zealand had won once in the previous six Tests (Ireland 3, France & South Africa), but they came out firing and with a point to prove.

With the pressure mounting on beleaguered All Blacks’ head coach Foster, who has already lost two support staff after his side’s historic first series loss to Ireland in July, nothing but a win would do.

Foster made changes to the entire front row and dropped Akira Ioane to the bench for Shannon Frizell in a bid to beef up the pack after the beating his men took last week in Mbombela.

It worked because the hosts could not get any go-forward.

Beauden Barrett was dropped to the bench for Mo’unga at flyhalf.

Jacques Nienaber also changed his front row, although Joseph Dweba was a late replacement for Bongi Mbonambi, who hurt his knee in training early in the week.

Duane Vermeulen made a return to the team after a longstanding knee injury kept him out.

Vermeulen joined Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siyamthanda Kolisi in the back row for the first time since the 2019 World Cup victory over England.

Nienaber’s changes did not work in the first stanza as the Kiwis flooded the breakdown, stopped every carry, and snuffed out the power in the scrums and mauls.

Dweba’s and Vermeulen’s inclusions did not go to plan, and both were sunned off before halftime.

South Africa start strong, but New Zealand strike twice in quick succession before Boks fought back before halftime.

South Africa halted several attacks inside their 22 in the early stages. Damian Willemse got yellow carded for cynical play near his line after Ardie Savea’s marauding run down the righthand touchline.

Cane opted for a scrum, but the Boks won a free kick for an early engagement. The Boks went into power mode when Pieter-Steph du Toit’s intercept saw Am get stopped short of the line.

More pressure led to Am scoring, referee Luke Pearce, however, blew for a knock-on by Ox Nche. The replay showed the ball was ripped from Nche’s hands and therefore not a knock-on, but the damage was done.

Jesse Kriel went off injured after nine minutes and did not return. Willie le Roux went to fullback, Am to the wing, and Willemse to inside centre.

The Springboks’ pressure kept mounting, especially with their fabled rush defence.

The All Blacks again flustered with the ball in hand and threw another offload into touch when Havili should have taken contact. Earlier, Will Jordan’s pass flew into touch.

The Boks’ pack began to get their driving maul going, winning a penalty after walking the Kiwis backwards. Pollard went to the corner instead of taking the points.

Dweba’s second poor throw let the visitors off the hook. New Zealand ran out from their 22 before winning a penalty on the opposition’s 22. Mo’unga called for the tee and duly opened the scoring on 24 minutes.

Dweba got the shepherd’s crook for Malcolm Marx after an unconvincing half an hour.

South Africa kicked to the corner on multiple occasions instead of taking the points, it would come back to bite them.

Clarke’s midfield break set up some quick ball around the halfway line. New Zealand went through the hands at pace before Cane dived over in the corner.

Mo’unga pulled his conversion but the tourists led by eight on the half hour.

The All Blacks kept coming, hitting the gain line and powering through tackles. Eventually, the Boks’ ran out of defenders and Taukei’aho crashed over. Mo’unga made no mistake to open up a formidable 15-point lead.

Nienaber needed to make changes. His side struggled to get over the gainline, the scrum and driving maul was nullified, and the All Blacks dominated the breakdown.

On came Steven Kitshoff for Nche and Jasper Wiese for Vermeulen, who struggled on his return. The subs did the trick.

Am pulled a try back before halftime after a powerful Springboks’ driving maul. Pollard converted from the touchline.

The Springboks got their maul going, bulldozing the opposition backwards. The ball was shifted wide to Am, who beat Clarke and slipped Jordan’s tackle to dot down for his sixth Test try.

Pollard landed a goal after the hooter to make it a five-point game at the break.

The home team’s pack continued to dominate the maul, winning a kickable penalty in front of the posts soon after the restart. Pollard made no mistake.

Two calls from referee Luke Pearce changed the momentum of the game as New Zealand stayed in the game before winning it at the death.

Wiese tackled Aaron Smith after the referee blew his whistle, it saw South Africa’s penalty overturned after a TMO review. Mo’unga extended his team’s lead to five.

Mapimpi scored before the hour after a sublime break from Am, the world’s premier centre.

However, the officials chalked off the score because they deemed Jaden Hendrikse blocked Sam Whitelock’s tackle attempt on Am.

Mo’unga extended to 21-13, but the Boks would not lie down

Last week’s Player of the Match Marx stole a turnover at the restart to kickstart a try-scoring attack. The ball was shifted to Willemse, who flung a preposterous long double-skip to Mapimpi.

Mapimpi gathered and sped away to score in the corner. Pollard nailed the sideline conversion to make it a one-point game with 20 to play.

The Boks kept coming, winning scrum penalties and turnovers at the breakdown. Hendrikse was taken out by Beauden Barrett off the ball after the scrumhalf toed a loose ball to the try line.

Barrett was sent to the bin, Pollard put the Boks 23-21 ahead going into the final stages.

Foster’s men, however, fought back. Another breakaway from deep inside their half by Rieko Ioane saw Havili win the game for the visitors. Mo’unga added the extras.

Barrett scored at the death to snatch away the losing bonus point.

Final Score: South Africa 23 (10) New Zealand 35 (15)


South Africa
Tries – Am, Mapimpi
Pen – Pollard (3)
Con – Pollard (2)
Drop –
Cards – Willemse (Yellow, 4′)

New Zealand
Tries – Cane, Taukei’aho, Havili, S. Barrett
Pen – Mo’unga (3)
Con – Mo’unga (3)
Drop –
Cards – B. Barrett (Yellow, 67′)

Match Officials
Referee: Luke Pearce [ENG]
Assistant Ref 1: Angus Gardner [AUS]
Assistant Ref 2: Christophe Ridley [ENG]
TMO: Brett Cronan [AUS]


South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Hershel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Samson Taukei’aho, 1 Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell (debut), 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea

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