All Blacks make statement with dominant victory over the Springboks

Colin Newboult

All Blacks celebrate Shannon Frizell's try against the Springboks in 2023.

New Zealand sent out a message to the rest of the world as they produced an impressive performance to beat South Africa 35-20 in the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks were utterly sublime in the opening 20 minutes and the Springboks had no answer, with Aaron Smith and Shannon Frizell tries helping the hosts into a 17-0 lead.

Jacques Nienaber’s men did get on the board through Faf de Klerk’s penalty and then gave themselves hope as Malcolm Marx and Cheslin Kolbe touched down in the second period.

However, the accurate kicking of Richie Mo’unga, who slotted three penalties and three conversions, allied by a try from Will Jordan, effectively sealed the victory for the hosts.

The fly-half then rubberstamped the win as he touched down to confirm their second successive victory in this year’s tournament.

With just Australia standing in their way, New Zealand went a long way to retaining their Rugby Championship title, while also making a statement ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

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If the All Blacks wanted to lay down a marker ahead of the World Cup, they very much did that in the first quarter. They were fearsome in every facet, putting their opponents under pressure through their physicality, intensity, speed of ball and execution.

Even the set-piece, a staple of the Springboks’ game, initially went the way of the hosts, who were simply irrepressible in the early stages.

It was easily the best they had played under Ian Foster with the power of the carrying being matched by the accuracy of the kick-chase.

Up front, Frizell had his best game in a black shirt and with Ardie Savea, Scott Barrett and Brodie Retallick joining him in sending the visitors into reverse, Foster’s men were unstoppable.

Behind the scrum, playmakers Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett dictated play magnificently and it was the latter’s long pass to Jordan which set up the first try.

The wing had shown his aerial prowess by pressurising the South African back three under the high ball, but this time he displayed his running ability by scything through the heart of the defence to set up Smith’s score.

It was a storming start but New Zealand were not done yet. After their fly-half had extended their advantage with a penalty, they went through the phases once again. The ball was shifted to the left where Frizell was lurking and the back-row swatted away Willie le Roux to touch down.

Everyone, including the All Blacks’ fans, seemed stunned by the sheer ferocity of the home team and South Africa quite frankly needed to get a foothold in the game.

They at least halted the hosts’ surge and got their own big ball carriers more into the game. That allowed them to set up the position for Kolbe to challenge Beauden Barrett in the air following a cross-field kick.

As Barrett went to ground the full-back lost possession of the ball, allowing Kolbe to potentially to touch down but, in the act of scoring, the wing was deemed to have knocked on, rather than ground, the ball.

The Boks instead had to be content with a De Klerk penalty, which reduced the arrears to 17-3, but that was immediately cancelled out by Mo’unga’s three-pointer as the hosts took a dominant lead into the break.

New Zealand then sought to put the match beyond doubt in the early stages of the second half, but Jordan knocked on after a last-ditch tackle from Kolbe.

It would be the All Blacks’ last opportunity for a while as the visitors began to edge themselves into the contest. Their set-piece, from scrum to maul, started to function and after a dominant drive, Marx crossed the whitewash to bring his side back into the contest.

The momentum had switched, despite Mo’unga’s penalty, and Le Roux’s excellent pass allowed Kolbe to touch down. However, the wing then missed the crucial conversion, leaving the visitors outside of converted try range.

It was to prove costly as New Zealand, knowing that they had the eight-point cushion, re-found their composure and put the match to bed.

Firstly, Jordan touched down as he latched on to a kick through before the outstanding Mo’unga well and truly made sure of the win by crossing the whitewash, despite Kwagga Smith’s last minute consolation try.

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