All Blacks too good for 'better Boks'
REPORT: South Africa produced their most impressive performance of the year, but it was still not good enough to threaten New Zealand.
The All Blacks outscored the Springboks by six tries to one, on their way to a comprehensive 41-13 win in Christchurch on Saturday.
The result means the Kiwis have reclaimed the Rugby Championships with two rounds to go.
There is nothing so bad that couldn't be worse. That is about all the comfort Springbok supporters can take from their seventh poor performance this year.
This wasn't as bad as 2003 or 2011 against the All Blacks, but in terms of matches between these two teams this defeat was huge.
The average score between the two countries was 20-16 in favour of New Zealand. That's how distorted this result is. And the worst of it is that it could have been bigger, save only for a better first half for the Springboks.
But New Zealand won the second half 26-3 against leaky defence. In that half the Springboks looked a shambles - crumbling scrums, wonky line-outs, haphazard defence and fragile hands. That is a clear invitation to the All Blacks to have a party.
The positive of the match was the continued excellence of the New Zealand running game. It is so simple - fast, straight and supporting so that the ball-carrier has just to pass to the man next to him, usually before contact. And they do it with obvious enjoyment, which is much better than grim determination and the tension that goes with it.
The All Blacks outscored the Springboks by six tries to one, on their way to a comprehensive 41-13 win in Christchurch on Saturday. The result means the Kiwis have reclaimed the Rugby Championships with two rounds to go.
The All Blacks now have two away matches, the Springboks two home matches. So what?
Respect for those who fought and died in the battle of the Somme shown, anthems sung, the kapa o pango warcry with popping eyes, puffing cheeks and lolling tongues done, Beauden Barrett kicked off and the match started on a cold but clear night with a bit of wind favouring the Springbok.
The All Blacks were first to attack and the first to score. A grubber by Aaron Smith bounced over the head of Goosen who was caught near his line but a penalty against Israel Dagg relieved the pressure on the Springboks. The All Blacks stayed attacking and Oupa Mohoje was offside and Barrett, who had a subdued but neat day, goaled. 3-0 after 9 minutes.
But then the Springboks attacked from a line-out on the left in New Zealand's 22. Francois de Klerk ran wide and then played inside to Goosen who darted ahead before giving to Pieter-Steph du Toit who galloped ahead. The Springboks went right where Warren Whiteley gave to Bryan Habana on a great line and the Springbok wing scored his 66th Test try behind the posts. 7-3 to the Springboks after 19 minutes, a lead of short duration.
The All Blacks kicked off and, under no immediate pressure, Elton Jantjies knocked on. The All Blacks went left from the scrum and Barrett was close. They went right from the tackle and hooker Dane Coles gave wing Dagg a perfect pass for the try. 8-7 to New Zealand after 21 minutes. After that the All Blacks grew their lead.
The Springboks ran inside their own 22 and knocked on. From the scrum on their left the All Blacks went wide right, then back left where Coles gave Julian Savea a perfect pass and the big wing crashed over in the left corner. Barrett converted. 15-7 after 28 minutes.
The Springboks attacked from a line-out thrown long to De Klerk over the back and Vincent Koch made good ground but Ardie Savea won a turnover. The All Blacks attacked off an Aaron Smith up-and-under but a penalty gave the Springboks a chance to attack through phases till Jantjies goaled a penalty. 15-10 after 36 minutes - a sensible score for matches between these two sides. After both sides had had a chance to attack, half-time broke at 15-10. But the second half was still to come.
It started badly when Jantjies kicked off directly into touch. From the scrum De Klerk stood wide and Aaron Smith raced away on a long break. De Klerk nevertheless persisted with this weird defence.
Adriaan Strauss went off three minutes into the second half and rugby welcomed Malcolm Marx onto the field. It was not to be an auspicious debut. He had one telling burst but while he was on the Springbok scrum deteriorated and the line-outs wobbled, three of them lost.
In his own half Jantjies kicked from far left to the right where Barrett caught to ball and started a counterattack down the right. The All Blacks then went left and came back right where Ben Smith swept inside Jesse Kriel to score. 22-10 after 49 minutes.
At this stage the Springboks made many changes, starting with the introduction of Willem Alberts and Damian de Allende.
Jantjies kicked a penalty when Ryan Crotty was penalised for one of those 'offside at a knock-on' penalties. 22-13 after 52 minutes, still a reasonable score but there were 28 minutes still to play.
On advantage Aaron Smith raced away on a long run down towards the Springbok line. Grabbed he got an under-arm offload to Ardie Savea, who scored. 29-13 after 57 minutes.
For the first time the Savea brothers had started a Test together and they celebrated it by each scoring a try.
There were more changes. One of them was the replacement of splendid Aaron Smith by wideawake TJ Perenara.
Barrett kicked a penalty a long way into touch on the All Blacks left. The All Blacks went wide right from the line-out and then came back wide left where Coles threw a pass, long and perfect, to Sam Whitelock who crashed over in the corner. 34-13 after 59 minutes.
The All Blacks came on the attack again. Perenara was close to scoring on the right but the TMO saw that a sliver of ball had touched a sliver of touch-in-goal as he grounded the ball. But Franco Mostert had knocked the ball back into in-goal and so it became a five-metre scrum to New Zealand. Ben Smith knocked on and the Springboks had a scrum five metres from their line but they were penalised when the scrum fell down and the All Blacks opted for another five-metre scrum. The scrum stayed up and the ball came back to Perenara, slowly so that he could survey his options and see De Klerk wandering wide. Perenara picked up the ball and ran a straight line inside De Klerk to score at the posts. 41-13 with 9 minutes to play.
The Springboks got closeish twice without really looking like scoring, a streaker amused the capacity crowd of 20 000 and the match came to an end which New Zealanders enjoyed.
Man of the Match: Dan Coles gave three try-scoring passes apart from faultless primary functions and lots of other liveliness. He is a candidate. But our choice is Aaron Smith for a flawless performance - in his decision-making, passing, kicking and running.
Moment of the Match: Ben Smith's try. It was a wonderful example of how a team can counter off a meaningless kick and all pitch in for one man to score - an excellent team try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody at all. There were not even bits of emotional outbursts as two respectful teams behaved like the gentleman we hope play rugby.
For New Zealand:
Tries:Dagg, J Savea, B Smith, A Savea, Whitelock, Perenara
Cons: Barrett 4
For South Africa:
Pens: Jantjies 2
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)