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The body language of the players as the final whistle was blown in the Rugby Championship Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Wellington was telling – the Springboks celebrating with an overriding sense of relief, the All Blacks slumped in despair. If you didn’t know the score, you’d have said it was a famous Springbok victory rather than the honours being shared. That’s what it’s like playing the powerful New Zealanders in their own back yard. A draw away feels like a win for the visitors. A draw for the home team is like a defeat. All Blacks captain Kieran Reid said as much after the game. Once again, the Springbok newcomer Herschel Jantjies showed his big match temperament as he scored the vital try in the death, although he might face a finger wag from coach Rassie Erasmus for not trying to dot down closer to the poles. Cheslin Kolbe was a live-wire out wide, and had the better of his bigger opposite number, Rieko Ioane. Lukhanyo Am at centre was superb in defence, disrupting attack after attack by the All Blacks. His dump tackle of the dangerous Sonny Bill Williams will have lifted his confidence no end. Erasmus will be pleased with his decision to rest players ahead of the Wellington Test and sending them on to New Zealand early. There is one more Test left before the World Cup as the Boks travel to Salta to take on Argentina. It’ll be interesting to see how Erasmus uses his players as he gets one final look at what’s on offer before the World Cup opener against New Zealand in Yokohama on September 21st. He will, no doubt, also bear in mind that victory against Argentina will secure the Rugby Championship for South Africa. Not that anybody really cares about that in a World Cup year. – David O’Sullivan
Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, attributed the Springboks’ nail-biting 16-16 draw against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday evening (NZ time) to a heavy stroke of luck.
Replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scored the match-saving try on full-time, which Handré Pollard converted, to tie the game at 16-16 after the All Blacks had managed to break the Springboks’ tight defensive grip in the second half.
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 27, 2019
“To play the No 1 team in the world and be lucky at the end there, it was almost like last year,” Erasmus said after the second round Castle Lager Rugby Championship match.
“Right at the end we could have lost it and we managed to draw the game, and Handré could have missed that last kick so we could have lost that game.
“To come away with a draw, I guess we’re satisfied with that. The first 35 minutes we played very well while they totally dominated the second half. So fairly lucky, in a big way,” said Erasmus.
The Springboks started impressively, especially in defence, and were unlucky to go into the halftime break 7-6 behind after they had dominated territory and possession.
A turnover in midfield, just inside the All Black half, opened up an opportunity for fullback Beauden Barrett to outflank the Springbok defence and turn a pass back infield for centre Jack Goodhue to sprint in from 20 metres.
Barrett, who had earlier missed a penalty from the same position, nailed the conversion to give the All Blacks an unlikely, 7-6 lead.
There were however positives to take from another massively tough tussle with the arch rivals, according to Erasmus.
“We certainly take a lot of positives out of this because they are the world’s No 1 team, they’re the benchmark and we all strive to be where they are.”
Watched the physical war that was @AllBlacks v @Springboks
1) NZ have never made that many errors
2) Retallic’s injury could be a huge loss for the World Cup
3) SA defence is quality
4) Beauden Barrett has ludicrous wheels
5) Goodhue has ludicrous hair
6) SA can win the World Cup
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) July 27, 2019
The Bok mentor was frustrated that his team did not collect more reward for their early efforts, when they were clearly dominant.
“I was frustrated in a sense that we dominated a lot of things except lineouts. All the other facets we dominated. Especially when they were almost under caution from the referee for repeated infringing and we missed the penalty when we could have gone nine points up, then they scored that turnover try and that swung the momentum,.
“Lucky to escape, but the first 40 minutes we played really good tactical rugby.”
The Springboks now travel to Auckland for a week-long training camp before their third and final Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in two weeks’ time in Salta.
Apart from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who failed his HIA assessment, and was replaced by Jantjies in the second half, there were no notable injuries on the Springbok side.
New Zealand 16 (7) – Try: Jack Goodhue. Conversion: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrrett, Richie Mo’unga (2)
South Africa 16 (6) – Try: Herschel Jantjies. Conversion: Handré Pollard Penalties: Pollard (3)
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