Shocking officiating robbed the world of a spectacular Test match and the Springboks of a chance to beat the world champion All Blacks.
The All Blacks won 29-15 after leading 17-10 at halftime.
But the game was marred when Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis was red carded in the 42nd minute.
The first half was pulsating and a contest, despite Du Plessis getting a yellow card for a legitimate tackle on All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter.
Du Plessis’s second yellow card, for leading with his elbow to the throat of Liam Messam, ended any hopes of a Springbok challenge.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers refused to blame the red card for the Boks’s inability to break the Eden Park hoodoo.
De Villiers said the Boks were not good enough – and he was right to a degree.
Jannie du Plessis had a night to forget and Willie le Roux and Ruan Pienaar struggled, but the Springboks can stand tall for their bravery and commitment when down to 14 for half the game.
Weaker teams would have folded, but this Springbok side isn’t a soft touch. Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw were particularly good in a lost cause.
The All Blacks were strong defensively and very physical in the collisions, but the Boks dominated the breakdown, especially when (Bismarck) du Plessis was on the field.
Du Plessis was having a blinder. He won several turnovers and scored a great try from the rolling maul.
Then disaster struck, through the officiating of French referee Romain Poite, whose first yellow card was a gross misrepresentation for the most brutal (yet legal) tackles on Carter.
The tackle ended Carter’s match and probably his Rugby Championship.
It has been a horror year for Carter with injury. He had only played two Tests prior to facing the Springboks and he lasted just 20 minutes at Eden Park.
The All Blacks, with Kieran Read at the fore, were lethal in taking two try-scoring opportunities early in the game but the Boks worked their way back into the game to trail 14-10 in a tense first 30 minutes.
But no team can play 14 against 15 and no team can play against the world champions in their back yard with a one-man disadvantage.
It is very difficult to analyse the match because of the mismatch in numbers. The All Blacks were reduced to 13 players in the last 10 minutes and the Boks scored through Pat Lambie, but it was after the fact.
The truth is once Du Plessis was shown red, everything was after the fact and it’s a credit to the South Africans that they kept the All Blacks to four tries and a 14 point differential.
All Blacks – Tries: Kieran Read (2), Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane. Conversions: Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett (2). Penalty: Barrett.
Springboks – Tries: Bismarck du Plessis (2). Conversion: Morné Steyn. Penalty: Steyn.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumaina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.