Rugby Championship News

Springboks upset All Blacks in epic for the ages




South Africa came from behind to upset New Zealand 34-36 in an epic Rugby Championship Test match at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.

But they had to withstand a second-half onslaught and some iffy refereeing in one of the most intense defensive displays in the modern game.

This was some turnaround after the Springboks’ previous two defeats away from home to Argentina and Australia.

The back-to-back losses had Rassie Erasmus talking in riddles and questioning his position as head coach.

The pressure was clearly on him, and after some dodgy team selections and results, the wheels appeared to be coming off. Not anymore.

This result will define his early tenure more so than the impressive 2-1 series win over England, earlier in the year.

Back then, it seemed he could do no wrong, then performances, followed by results started to turn.

How Erasmus needed this win; how the world needed this win to breathe life and hope back into the sport which the Kiwis have dominated for a decade.

Aphiwe Dyantyi and Rieko Ioane both shared a brace in this sensational 11-try thriller, worthy of this great rivalry.

Dyantyi was also involved in securing the win when he shot out of the line and hit Damian McKenzie, dislodging the ball out of his hands.

The tackle won back possession after a 17-phase attack – reminiscent of the siege of Rorke’s Drift – and allowed Willie le Roux to boot the ball into the stands and seal the heroic victory.

There is life in the Springboks yet as they hung on for victory against the World Champions with a rearguard action for the ages.

The Boks overcame a 12-point deficit inside the first quarter to chalk up their first win in New Zealand since 2009 and their first at the Cake Tin.

It was the first time since that 2009 (3,290 days and 48 Tests) Bok win that the All Blacks have been beaten at home by another country (they also lost to the British and Irish Lions in 2017).

South Africa also ended a six-game losing streak going back to 2014 against Steve Hansen’s men in Johannesburg.

It was also their first win in Wellington since 1998 and the most points South Africa had ever scored in a Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Erasmus’ men scored 21 unanswered points in 13 minutes to lead by nine just before the break.

The Kiwis hit back with two minutes remaining in the half, but a Handré Pollard penalty and a Cheslin Kolbe intercept gave the visitors a 14-point advantage.

But the All Blacks hit their stride, reducing the gap to seven before Dyantyi scored his second.

With time running out, Willie le Roux was yellow-carded and Ardie Savea punished the tourists.

Beauden Barrett hit the post twice which helped the Boks limp over the line.

Sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story and can be misleading. You’d swear it was a massacre in favour of the hosts.

The Springboks were outscored, six tries to five. They had only 21 percent territory, 25% possession and had to make 235 tackles to the All Blacks’ 61 at a rate of 85%.

Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert (24) led the visitors in tackles while Warren Whiteley – in his best performance in green and gold – made 20.

To put this in perspective, the entire New Zealand team only made 49 tackles, the towering Sam Whitelock leading the stats with eight.

Including Du Toit, Mostert and Whiteley, 11 Springboks made more tackles than Whitelock with Damian de Allende and Kolbe equalling the Kiwi lock.

Francois Louw’s knock-on at the end almost proved costly, made 10 tackles in 13 minutes after coming on. Insane.

New Zealand dominated every facet of the game except the scoreboard and even then, Beauden Barrett missed four conversions with two hitting the post.

The first-five eight’s last kick rebounded off the left-hand post from almost in front and proved costly.

Contrast this with Handré Pollard.

The Bok flyhalf was pilloried for his performance against Argentina in Mendoza and was woeful from the kicking tee – missing five of his seven attempts against Los Pumas in Durban – was the difference.

Pollard, who was superb (making 11 tackles, too) missed one of his six shots at goal and proved the difference between winning or drawing.

Turnovers were aplenty in one of the most intense breakdown battles in modern rugby history.

Both sides competed ferociously at the breakdown; the All Blacks winning 98% and the Bokke 93%.

Win the breakdown, win the game, so they say, but South Africa conceded fewer turnovers although both teams punished each other from turnover mistakes and giving the ball away cheaply.

The set-pieces were equally as solid from both sets of forwards, with the two winning 100% of their scrums and only losing a single lineout apiece.

The driving mauls were powerful, leading to tries for Malcolm Marx, Codie Taylor and Savea.

The refereeing fiasco from the – usually – reliable Nigel Owens almost cost the Boks.

The Welshman is without a doubt the leading official in world rugby and he was in charge of the 2013 epic between the rivals at Ellis Park, but he was awful today.

His performance bordered on the inept, conjuring memories of his handling of the 2015 World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.

He missed a few knock-ons from the hosts, one which led to a 20-phase attack and score in the build-up to Ioane’s first try before halftime from Anton Lienert-Brown.

Another incident saw Owens play one of the longest, most bemusing penalty-advantages.

He pulled back play which allowed the Kiwis to kick to the corner and set up a rolling maul for Savea’s 74th-minute five-pointer.

New Zealand did not concede a penalty in the second half.

Owens pinged the tourists often, including once after he told Kieran Read to leave the ball alone because he was not supporting his body-weight.

He then proceeded to penalise the Boks.

South Africa was never awarded a penalty inside the opposition’s red zone.

another instance, this time at the scrum, the British referee gave New Zealand a scrum-penalty (on the Boks’ 5-metres line) despite their forwards getting dismantled by the opposing pack.

The television commentators were left just as baffled as the crowd and viewers, constantly questioning calls that went against the Springboks.

 New Zealand quick out the blocks, but South Africa fight back to lead at halftime.

Jordie Barrett opened the scoring, after taking his brother’s (Beauden) short pass and ghosting through a gap.

Aaron Smith started and finished his team’s second after some smart work from Taylor in the wide channel, before taking Ben smith’s inside pass to put his side 12-nil ahead.

Erasmus’ men looked dead and buried and they needed to score next to stand any chance of staying with their opponents.

They did more than that; they scored three converted tries inside 13 minutes.

Le Roux and Marx combined to send Dyantyi away for his first.

The next scores summed up New Zealand’s day.

Marx missed his jumper and the All Blacks attacked. Somehow, Frans Malherbe won an important turnover and set up a counter-attack on the right flank.

Le Roux put in a cheeky grubber behind the flat Kiwi defensive line for Dyantyi, who almost sped away from Beauden Barrett.

The flyer was caught as he attempted a chip-kick and the ball went directly into touch.

Jordie Barrett took the throw quickly, but his long pass did not reach Ioane.

It bounced before the winger and sat up for Le Roux to collect and score.

The fullback was everywhere, winning a crucial penalty at the breakdown.

The Boks to set up a driving maul near the All Blacks try-line.

Marx hit Eben Etzebeth, the forwards formed a maul and bulldozed their way over for Marx’s try.

The home team and their support were in shock.

Ioane pulled a try back. Owens missed Lienert-Brown’s knock-on and 20-phases later, the winger strolled over in the corner.

The Boks won their last penalty of the game at another ruck. Pollard nailed the kick to make it a one-score game at the interval.

South Africa came out firing.

Aaron Smith took a quick tap penalty on halfway and caught the Boks flat-footed, shifting the ball wide.

Lienert-Brown’s mistake led to Kolbe intercepting and racing away.

The centre, attempting a pop-pass to Liam Squire, did not see the utility-back and attempted a pop-pass to Liam Squire.

Kolbe did not need a second invitation. Pollard’s conversion made it 17-34.

The All Blacks were creaking, but with the help of a dodgy Owens call, they hit back.

South Africa demolished the opposite pack but was penalised, allowing the home side to go quickly.

Ioane finished expertly in the corner after bouncing Kolbe.

The Boks were not done, instead, they brought some razzle-dazzle to Wellington.

Elton Jantjies, on at flyhalf, combining with Pollard, who was shifted to inside centre, set up Dyantyi’s second.

It still took some fancy footwork by the Lions wing to skip past a couple of defenders and extend his side’s brittle lead.

The final 23 minutes was wave after wave of New Zealand attacks.

Le Roux was yellow carded for cynical play.

Owens got this call right; the fullback and his team could have no problem with because he was clearly offsides in the red zone.

Erasmus’ side only conceded five points while down to 14 men which is unheard of against this great team.

Taylor flopped over the whitewash following a rolling maul and Savea crashed over to make it a two-point deficit, but the Boks hung on for a famous and heroic victory.

Cue scenes and tears of joy.

New Zealand versus South Africa video highlights

Final score: New Zealand 34 (17) South Africa 36 (24)


New Zealand
Tries – J. Barrett, A. Smith, R. Ioane (2), Taylor, A. Savea
Pen –
Con – B. Barrett (2)
Drop –
Cards –

South Africa
Tries – Dyantyi (2), Le Roux, Marx, Kolbe
Pen – Pollard
Con – Pollard (4)
Drop –
Cards – Le Roux (Yellow, 67′)

Match Officials
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Ref 1: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)
Assistant Ref 2: Nic Berry (ARU)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (RFU)


New Zealand

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 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 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.

Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Jack Goodhue, 23 Damian McKenzie.

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.

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