Two tries in the final three minutes saw New Zealand secure the Tri-Nations title in some style with a 29-22 victory in Johannesburg.
Two tries in the final three minutes saw New Zealand secure the 2010 Tri-Nations title in dramatic fashion with a 29-22 win in Johannesburg.
22-17 up going in the game's dying embers, the Springboks had the wind knocked out of them when their visitors came good thanks to scores from captain Richie McCaw and Israel Dagg.
It was cruel way for John Smit to leave the field in his 100th appearance for his country, especially as he was the man who missed a key tackle that let centre Ma'a Nonu slip through the net.
The atmosphere at the formerly-known Soccer City was electric for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was Smit's century and he jogged out to a mass of noise at the 94,000 capacity venue – a ground that had a huge amount of Elvis' in attendance due to a world-record being attempted. Don't ask.
Soon after, the Haka was drowned out by that same crowd singing 'Ole, ole, ole, oleee' and that seemed to spur on the hosts. Hits were fierce from the wounded Springboks as they drove the champions-in-waiting back in the tackle, which was something they were simply not doing during the opening fixtures of the tournament.
And boy did their intensity upset New Zealand's rhythm which had been so impressive up until now in 2010. They were simply knocked off their perch early on by a side hurting and in desperate need of a result, with Schalk Burger and a returning Juan Smith starring.
Captain Smit unfortunately did not have it all his own way though on Saturday, as his opening lineout was not straight and then he was penalised by Welsh referee Nigel Owens for delaying a throw soon after. Dan Carter adding three points was the net result.
South Africa were on the board on eleven minutes though when Kieran Read was caught going off his feet but this was all while the Springboks were turning up the defensive heat in Johannesburg. Those tackles and the general intensity brought another penalty just three minutes later when Ben Franks – in for his brother at tighthead this week – failed to roll away. Morne Steyn made no mistake from the tee and that was part of his 100 per cent record.
His rival was not so assured. Carter struck the post with almost a quarter of the game passed and if he was on-target before the break, New Zealand would have gone in ahead. As it was they were down 16-14 after two tries, one for Burger and then Tony Woodcock.
Burger's score was down to brute force as the All Blacks found themselves on the back foot. From close range the flank put his head down and burrowed his way over before lock Tom Donnelly found himself needing to just draw and give to his prop on 37 minutes.
The interval was always going to bring up the question whether South Africa could maintain their fire that was keeping New Zealand contained. The answer was they couldn't as the visitors enjoyed the lion's share of and territory, with the hosts breathing heavily in stages.
Steyn did extend the lead to eight points after the hour mark however, with Carter keeping New Zealand in touching distance when he knocked over a penalty of his own.
But seven minutes from time the visiting playmaker missed a shot from straight in front the uprights and that seemed to end all hope. The was far from dead.
Three minutes from time, McCaw collected the ball on the overlap and dived over in the right corner, despite the best efforts of three defenders and the TMO ruling.
And then came the moment that veteran hooker Smit would have had nightmares about on his special day as his missed tackle on Nonu led to Dagg going over to seal a memorable victory, which secured the title and kept their unbeaten run intact.
Man of the match: Many of the forwards put their hand up for this accolade but it has to go to a player on the losing side. Schalk Burger was immense in the tackle and combined well with Juan Smith and Pierre Spies at times. Hats off also to Richie McCaw and Ma'a Nonu.
Moment of the match: South African TMO Shaun Veldsman's decision to allow Richie McCaw's levelling try in the corner. It was a call that no one would want to make as the captain's foot dangled dangerously close the whitewash.
Villain of the match: A good game full of intensity with no yellow cards. No villain today.
For South Africa:
Pen: Steyn 5
For New Zealand:
Tries: Woodcock, McCaw, Dagg
South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Butch James, 22 Wynand Olivier.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Josevata Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Israel Dagg.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Adam Kyriacou