South Africa beat New Zealand 31-29 in an epic final game of the 2021 Rugby Championship at Cbus Super Stadium on Gold Coast.
Elton Jantjies came off the bench to kick a walk-off penalty as South Africa claimed a famous victory over their great rivals in Queensland.
This was a game for the ages, something often produced between these rugby giants, yet never gets old.
The World Champions had to overturn a nine-point deficit, trade leads, and hold their nerve in a scintillating final 13 minutes.
A see-sawing last quarter of an hour saw the teams trade four penalties and a drop-goal as the lead changed hands four times in four last high drama minutes.
This is sport as it’s meant to be, gladiators of our time in an end game of games.
Jantjies kicked a long-distance drop-kick with less than three minutes remaining to put the Springboks 28-26 ahead. He also assisted Makazole Mapimpi for the winger’s try.
But recurring mistake from the following restart saw New Zealand win – what they thought – was a match-winning penalty.
New Zealand thought they had secured a sixth win of this year’s Rugby Championship, but it was not to be.
It would have completed a fifth tournament Grand Slam after Jordie Barrett’s last-minute goal looked to have won a memorable Test match.
But Jacques Nienaber’s World Champions dug deep
They went down the field after winning a penalty at the breakdown when the All Blacks were trying to run out the clock.
Frans Steyn booted to the Kiwis’ 22, the Boks went to their maul and won the game when Jantjies knocked over the winning goal three minutes after the siren sounded.
Players from both teams shed tears, different types of tears, but tears non the less.
This was an epic Test, worthy of the two nations’ rivalry stretching back 100 years and 101 Test matches.
There were five tries in this ding-dong, but it was the battle of the boots that settled the game.
Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, and Brad Weber scored first-half tries as the All Blacks took control of a pulsating match.
South Africa, however, scored twice through Damian de Allende and Mapimpi on either side of the interval.
Barrett was not perfect from the tee, but he kicked better than Handre Pollard, who missed several kicks again for seven points.
The 24-year-old New Zealand fullback notched 14 points (4 pens, con), while Pollard (4 pens) and Jantjies (2 pens, drop goal) added to the Boks’ tally.
Reece, Savea, and Weber’s scores cancel out De Allende’s try to give All Blacks 20-14 lead at the break
Two tries to one saw New Zealand take a slender six-point advantage into the shed at halftime.
Pollard missed an early penalty, but South Africa scored a stunning try to take the lead after De Allende crossed in the sixth minute.
The 27-year-old pivot was again poor from the tee, he could not convert.
Both kickers traded penalties before the Kiwis struck.
Ian Foster’s side levelled. Reece caught Beauden Barrett’s pin-point crossfield kick to score in the corner on 13 minutes.
The younger Barrett’s kick flew wide but it was 8-8 in the first quarter.
Mbongeni Mbonambi knocked on trying to reach over the line and score, but Pollard’s second penalty five minutes later put the Boks ahead.
Beauden Barrett was at it again, slicing the Boks defence to shreds as he set up Savea’s fourth try against South Africa.
Savea’s swan-dive to score was fantastic.
Kiwis begin to pull away as Bok defence struggles
The fullback converted to make it 15-11 on the half-hour.
What was not fantastic, however, was referee Matthew Carley and TMO Brett Cronan’s dubious officiating.
Weber’s try should have been ruled a knock-on by Joe Moody before the scrum-half gathered the ball.
The TV replay clearly showed the ball was knocked on. It was not their only blunder, one of many.
One such incident was the bizarre interpretation of De Allende’s attempted intercept attempt later on.
The centre almost snatched a one-handed grab but he was instead pinged for a deliberate knockdown.
When questioned by Siya Kolisi, the referee told the Bok skipper that a player “must use two hands to attempt and intercept”.
Really? No, me neither, there must be a new law introduced that players and fans have not been told.
Three minutes later, Weber dotted down in the corner after a stolen lineout to increase the Kiwis’ lead to nine. Barrett could not convert.
Pollard reduced the deficit to six on the stroke of halftime.
Nienaber’s charges came out flying after the break, Foster’s side battled
The Boks had the All Blacks under pressure for the entire half, the Kiwis never looked like scoring. Nienaber’s side took control.
Veteran playmaker Steyn replaced Willie Le roux, who was subbed at the interval after a nightmare Test.
Pollard hit a fourth goal to put make it 17-20. Steyn’s magical boot set up an attack inside the opposition’s 22 from a 50/22.
A powerful driving maul saw the Springboks go wide to Mapimpi, who dived over in the corner to give his side the lead.
The conversion was wide. The Boks kept coming, so did their ‘bomb squad’, which made the difference.
They dominated every facet of play as the Kiwis scrambled to stay in the game.
A lineout near the Boks’ line was the closest the men in black came to scoring, but the opposition stole possession.
Jantjies relieved Pollard of the kicking duties, 34-year-old Steyn, the kicking out of hand duties. Both made an instant impact, a game-winning impact.
South Africa spent an age inside the opposition’s 22, but kept out by dogged defending, they changed tact.
Jantjies added a 58th-minute penalty as the men in green and gold looked to take the points.
New Zealand struggled to get their hands on the ball. When they did, they made unforced errors, lost turnovers inside both 22s.
A thrilling final quarter saw an epic Test see-saw as both teams went for the jugular
Barrett kicked a long-range penalty after he was taken out late, to make it a two-point game in the final 12 minutes.
With six minutes remaining, Steyn got pinged for playing the ball on the ground after not releasing Damian McKenzie in the tackle.
A scuffle broke out as the teams let the intensity of the situation boil over. It was handbags, though.
Barrett, after a long delay due to Eben Etzebeth and Malcolm Marx’s head clash, sent the All Blacks ahead.
Jantjies thought he had won the game for his team after his magnificent 40-metre drop-goal.
However, another botched restart by South Africa let Barrett collect three to make it 28-29 just before the hooter sounded.
The Springboks’ restart did not go 10m. It allowed New Zealand a chance to run out the clock.
It was not meant to be, however, because Duane Vermeulen won a game-defining turnover inside his half.
Steyn kicked to the 22, the Boks went to their maul and drove the tired Kiwis to their line.
The All Blacks’ resolve broke, conceding a rare offside penalty on their goal line.
This allowed Jantjies to be the hero, and break Kiwi hearts.
The Boks went back to number one in the World Rugby rankings — after being dethroned for two weeks — the detractors back in their holes.
Who said the World Champion Springboks were boring?
Final Score: South Africa 31 (14) New Zealand 29 (20)
Tries – De Allende, Mapimpi
Pen – Pollard (4), E. Jantjies (2)
Drop – E. Jantjies
Tries – Reece, A. Savea, Weber
Pen – J. Barrett (4)
Con – J. Barrett
Referee: Matthew Carley (ENG)
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy (AUS)
Assistant Ref 2: Jordan Way (AUS)
TMO: Brett Cronan (AUS)
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 George Bower, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Damian McKenzie