The Springboks ended a three-match losing streak when they claimed a hard-fought 31-29 Rugby Championship triumph against the All Blacks on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
In another drama-filled and exciting encounter, just like last weekend’s match between these sides, this contest also went down to the wire with Elton Jantjies clinching the result for his team with an injury time penalty.
South Africa’s other points came via tries from Damian de Allende and Makazole Mapimpi while Handre Pollard succeeded with four penalties and Jantjies added another three-pointer off the kicking tee and a drop-goal.
For New Zealand, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea and Brad Weber scored tries while Jordie Barrett finished with a 14-point haul courtesy of three penalties and a conversion.
The Springboks did most of the early attacking although Pollard was off target with a penalty attempt in the fifth minute, after a high tackle on Mapimpi, but the Boks put that setback behind them and soon opened the scoring courtesy of De Allende’s try.
Lukhanyo Am did well to win a loose ball inside New Zealand’s 22 before offloading brilliantly out of the back of his hand to Sbu Nkosi, who drew Jordie Barrett before passing to De Allende, who crossed in the right-hand corner.
Shortly afterwards the All Blacks opened their account courtesy of a Barrett penalty after Am infringed at a ruck.
Five minutes later, Willie le Roux failed to gather an up-and-under just outside his 22 and the Boks were made to pay as the All Blacks launched a counter attack with Beauden Barrett finding Reece with a cross-field kick and he did well to score out wide despite a desperate tackle from Duane Vermeulen.
10 minutes later, Scott Barrett impeded Mapimpi while the latter was competing for a high ball and Pollard gave his side an 11-8 lead when he succeeded with the resulting penalty in the 24th minute.
Five minutes later, the All Blacks launched an attack from a lineout close to the halfway line with Beauden Barrett doing brilliantly to beat a couple of defenders before getting a pass out to Rieko Ioane. He set off towards the Boks’ try-line before throwing an inside pass to Savea, who dove over in spectacular fashion.
Full-back Barrett converted to give the All Blacks a 15-11 lead and shortly afterwards Weber pounced when Eben Etzebeth failed to gather a throw-in at a lineout close to South Africa’s try-line. Etzebeth knocked the ball onto the arm of Joe Moody and Weber gathered before crossing out wide.
Just before half-time, Pollard stepped up to add his third penalty which meant New Zealand were holding a 20-14 lead as the teams changed sides at the interval.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with the Springboks on the attack from the kick off and two minutes after the restart they won a scrum penalty which Pollard converted to narrow the gap to three points.
The Boks continued to hold the upper hand and in the 52nd minute they launched an attack from a lineout close to the All Blacks’ try-line. Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff put them on the front foot with strong carries before the ball was shifted to the wing where Mapimpi dotted down in the left-hand corner.
The next 15 minutes was an attritional affair as both sides gave their all to win this Test and in the 58th minute Jantjies extended the Boks’ lead when he slotted a penalty, after the All Blacks strayed offside on defence. Despite trailing by five points, the All Blacks did not panic and they narrowed the gap again when Barrett added his second penalty in the 67th minute.
That set up a nail-biting finish and in the 74th minute Barrett slotted his third three-pointer off the kicking tee after Frans Steyn infringed at a breakdown. The world champions did not surrender though and soon after Jantjies landed his drop-goal from 40 metres out to give his side the lead again.
There was plenty of drama in the game’s closing stages and in the 79th minute the All Blacks went in front for the third time courtesy of another Barrett penalty after Franco Mostert was blown up for an indiscretion at a ruck.
The Boks refused to throw in the towel and launched one final attack and Jantjies added the match-winning points with the clock in the red after the All Blacks were caught offside on defence again.