NZ took one step closer to claiming the Rugby Championship title after seeing off South Africa 21-11 in Dunedin on Saturday.
New Zealand took one step closer to claiming the Rugby Championship title after seeing off South Africa 21-11 at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.
The All Blacks, unbeaten in 14 Tests, outscored the Springboks two tries to one for a win that sees them take a commanding lead in the competition.
It certainly wasn't the best performance by the home side and they can count themselves lucky to come away with four points after South Africa blew several scoring opportunities – particularly in goal-kicking – that could have seen the match end in their favour.
Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and Johan Goosen managed only two of nine attempts between them, whilst the visitors also let three chances slip with the try-line begging.
Indeed, this was a Test the Boks could have and should have won. Instead, South Africa's woeful kicking display and questionable tactics eventually proved costly and now leave New Zealand empty-handed after Aaron Cruden denied the visitors a losing bonus-point thanks to his successful penalty kick on full-time.
South Africa drew first blood when Morne Steyn raised the flags for the first and only time on 18 minutes after his namesake Francois had missed earlier from long range and Bryan Habana failed to hold an awkward pass with the line open.
The All Blacks struck back immediately though. Hooker Andrew Hore put in some hard yards before a beautiful offload from number eight Kieran Read set speedster Israel Dagg – who also handled four times in the movement – away for the opening try. Cruden missed the conversion, but the All Blacks were in front (5-3).
The two Steyns then missed three penalties between them, including a regulation shot from the Bok number ten on the stroke of half-time that could've put his team in front at the break.
But it was New Zealand who held the slender lead, even though the Springboks had 58 per cent territory and forced six turnovers from the All Blacks while conceding two.
South Africa came out firing in the second forty, but once again squandered points after Habana lost the ball on the run with the try-line in sight while Zane Kirchner's drop attempt missed the posts.
They finally broke through when Habana produced a moment of genius, chipping over the top and gathering for a super try – Morne Steyn missed the conversion, but the Boks were in front and deservedly so (5-8).
Cruden levelled the scores with a successful penalty (8-8) and then converted another sensational solo try – this time from replacement half-back Aaron Smith who dummied and sidestepped through the defence from 25 metres out.
Disaster then struck for the men in green and gold when replacement prop Dean Greyling was binned for taking out All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw. It was a night to forget for the Bulls prop, who also coughed the ball up with the try-line beckoning in the dying minutes and conceded a string of penalties.
Down to 14 players, South Africa's kicking woes spread to a third player when replacement Johan Goosen missed from halfway but he kept the game alive going into the final 10 minutes with a successful effort to make it 15-11.
But two penalty calls handed Cruden a pair of three-pointers that he made no mistake with to deny South Africa a bonus-point and make it four wins from four for New Zealand.
Man of the match: For South Africa, Duane Vermeulen was rock-solid while try-scorer Bryan Habana injected plenty of pace into the backline. However, it's hard to look beyond the inspirational performance from All Blacks captain Richie McCaw who gave as good as he received in the forward exchanges.
Moment of the match: Habana's touchdown was certainly one for the highlights reel, but replacement scrum-half Aaron Smith – dropped to the bench for a breach of team protocol last weekend – turned disgrace into triumph when he came off the bench to score New Zealand's decisive try.
Villain of the match: We seriously doubt we'll see Dean Greyling in a Bok jersey again after his error-prone and ill-disciplined 30 minutes on the field… oh, make that 20 minutes on the field – he spent 10 in the bin for his assault on McCaw.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Dagg, A Smith
Pens: Cruden 2
For South Africa:
Pens: M Steyn, Goosen
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison.
South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
Referee: George Clancy (IRE)
By Dave Morris