The All Blacks made it 16 consecutive Test victories by beating the Springboks 32-16 in a dominant performance in Soweto on Saturday.
If ever you had any doubt that this All Black team is one of the best of all time, Saturday's match in Soweto dispelled that. The Springboks did their limited best and were nowhere close, and the Springboks are ranked second in the world. It was four tries to one, which says a lot.
The All Blacks ended the inaugural Rugby Championship unbeaten, the Springboks also-rans.
For one thing it speaks of the value of weaving a wonderful tapestry of attack against the predictable one off runners or maul followed by pick-'n-drive. It also showed the value of being able to catch and pass and the value of having a defensive system. It was a wonderful New Zealand performance.
Last week's much improved Springbok victory over the dilapidated Wallabies proved a false spring. The winter of discontent closed in again at Soweto for the Springboks, despite an exhilarating start to the Test. But it takes more than one bit of clever rugby to beat these All Blacks.
That one bit of clever rugby opened the score after Johan Goosen had missed two penalty kicks at goal that he would have been expected to get.
The penalty count was interesting. In the first half it was 7-0 in South Africa's favour and it seemed about to repeat itself but Coenie Oosthuizen came on and the second-half count was 4-all, three against the promising young prop.
But back to that first score. South Africa had a line-out on the right and they did some clever manoeuvring which enabled Willem Alberts to burst through. The big flank tried to get the ball back to his captain but Liam Messam knocked it back and Jean de Villiers got to the ball and skated away, giving a perfect, long pass to Bryan Habana on his right and Habana scored his 47th Test try.
At this stage the Springboks were all over the All Blacks who got only desperate scraps of possession.
When Brodie Retallick was penalised for being offside, Goosen - relief all over South Africa - goaled. 10-0 after 20 minutes.
Then the rot started. In quick succession the Springboks twice lost possession in the tackle and the All Blacks went on the attack. Near their line, the Springboks won a turnover and Jaco Taute kicked downfield, going for a long touch but failing to find touch. Israel Dagg caught the ball right at the touchline on his right and three long passes delivered the ball to Hosea Gear who raced ahead and in Duane Vermeulen's tackle got the ball to Read who gave to Sam Whitelock who raced down the touchline to score in the corner. 10-5 after 26 minutes. The All Blacks were on their way to winning the match.
From a line-out on the left they went wide left. Habana darted in for an intercept leaving Gear running on an inward curve and giving the ball to Aaron Smith who had an unhindered passage to the posts. It was an astonishingly easy try from a set piece and it put the All Blacks 12-10 ahead after 33 minutes.
At this stage Goosen hobbled off and Elton Jantjies took his place. The young Lion kicked two penalty goals, one when Ma'a Nonu was offside and one when the Springboks destroyed the All Blacks' scrum. That made the half-time score 16-12 in favour of the Springboks, but they did not score again.
The All Blacks scored again and it took them a minute to start doing so. They kicked off short to their left and Retallick caught the kick-off ahead of Alberts. They went right and Dagg beat Taute and Andries Bekker, giving to Read who strode ahead imperiously, ignoring Cory Jane on his right and popping the shortest of passes to Nonu on his left. Nonu scored. 19-16 after 41 minutes.
Jantjies missed from 56 metres and then hit the upright from close in. Tony Woodcock won a turnover and Gear was running to great effect again. The All Blacks had a scrum about 10 metres from the Springboks' line and went right where Conrad Smith swooped over - a second try from a set piece. 26-16 after 52 minutes.
A magnificent penalty kick for touch by Ruan Pienaar gave the Springboks a five-metre line-out. They bashed and went wide but Habana knocked on five metres or so from the line. The Springboks went through its one-man phases till hands again let them down. Then the All Blacks wove effective patterns till Dan Carter dropped a goal. 29-16 after 64 minutes.
Just after this Dagg was penalised at a tackle after the referee had warned Richie McCaw. Dagg was sent to the sin bin and the Springboks had a five-metre line-out. They mauled and did their pick-'n-drive till their hands let them down.
With eight minutes to go Carter goaled a penalty and the All Blacks came back on the attack. Pienaar kicked to clear and the All Blacks countered till Read just lost a high kick right at the goal-line.
Man of the Match: Who do you want - Hosea Gear, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Andrew Hore, who won the first two turnovers of the match, Richie McCaw or our choice of Man of the match - Kieran Read?
Moment of the Match: Brodie Retallick's catch at the kick-off, Israel Dagg's break and Ma'a Nonu's try, the herald of victory.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. Two decent teams played each other at rugby in Soweto.
For South Africa:
Pens: Goosen, Jantjies 2
For New Zealand:
Tries: Whitelock, A Smith, Nonu, C Smith
Cons: Carter 3
Yellow card: Israel Dagg (repeated infringements, 65 mins)
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 François Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock , 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Tamati Ellison.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)