Published on 15.09.2018 at 12h54 by AFP
South Africa pulled off a shock 36-34 victory over the world champion All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday, steered home by the accurate boot of Handre Pollard.
It was New Zealand’s first loss in the competition in three years, although they remain head of the table with two rounds still to play.
The All Blacks outscored the Springboks six tries to five but pivot Beauden Barrett was successful with only two of six shots at goal, while Pollard landed five out of six.
Pollard, replacing Elton Jantjies at flyhalf, also produced a stubborn defensive performance to shut off attacks close to the ruck, as South Africa returned to winning form following back-to-back losses to Australia and Argentina.
In a tense closing quarter to the Test between the traditional foes, the visitors saw a 36-24 lead whittled down to a two-point margin.
But with time on the clock, and after a series of fruitless forward drives at the line, New Zealand moved the ball wide only for Damian McKenzie to knock on with the try line beckoning.
South Africa had done their best before the game to talk up their opponents, with coach Rassie Erasmus saying he would be satisfied with a “close loss”.
For the first 20 minutes it looked like even that was out of reach as the All Blacks raced to a 12-0 lead.
But by half-time the Springboks had recovered from a slow start to lead 24-17, with their confidence growing as they punished New Zealand for multiple handling errors.
Barrett did set up the opening try with a neat flick pass off his toes to put his brother Jordie over the line.
Ben and Aaron Smith combined down the right wing for the second try with Ben Smith getting around Aphiwe Dyantyi and drawing Willie le Roux to give Aaron Smith an open run to the line.
Dyantyi and le Roux made immediate amends.
First, Ben Smith had to watch Dyantyi run in for the Springboks’ first try, then a botched quick throw in by Jordie Barrett was snapped up by le Roux for the second.
Malcolm Marx extended the lead to 21-12 with a try from a lineout drive and when sustained pressure by the All Blacks produced a try to Rieko Ioane, South Africa responded with a penalty to Pollard on the stroke of half-time.
Immediately after the resumption, the Springboks extended their lead to 31-17, again cashing in when replacement wing Cheslin Kolbe picked off a pass from Anton Lienert-Brown to Ioane and raced 40 metres to the line.
When the All Blacks narrowed the margin to seven points with Rieko Ioane’s scored try, South Africa countered with a second try to Dyantyi.
With the Springboks defence frustrating New Zealand’s running game, the home side resorted to forward power.
Codie Taylor and Ardie Savea produced late tries from lineout drives but neither was converted.