Richie McCaw’s mighty All Blacks are the greatest team in world rugby. Of that there can be no dispute now. Not anywhere and not in South Africa.
The All Blacks hammered the Springboks 38-27 at the spiritual home of South African Test rugby after leading 21-15 at halftime.
The All Blacks won their 12th successive Rugby Championship match to claim their second successive tournament victory. The Rugby Championship is an expansion of the Tri Nations.
The All Blacks have won the Tri Nations/Rugby Championship 12 times. South Africa and Australia has won three the competition three times.
The Springboks scored four tries within an hour but were never good enough to withstand the skill and composure of a team led by a man (in McCaw), who has now done everything there is to do in a New Zealand Test jersey.
McCaw, in his 120th Test, was playing his first Test at Ellis Park. It was fitting to his pedigree that he was at the helm to lead the All Blacks to their 50th Test win against the Springboks.
The All Blacks, having lost players to the sin bin twice, scored five tries and ended the match on the Springboks goalline. Such was their superiority.
Referee Nigel Owens managed the Test superbly. Owens was outstanding and no South African can have a complaint about the refereeing. The best team on the day won at Ellis Park. The best team in the world won at Ellis Park.
Salute these All Blacks. They deserve to be Rugby Championship winners. They deserver every accolade they have afforded them.
There are no superlatives to do justice to McCaw. He hadn’t played for a month and wasn’t expected to play for another two weeks because of torn knee ligaments. He not only started but played 80 minutes, with 60 of them in a pack of only seven.
All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read was named man of the match, but Liam Messam and McCaw were not far behind in contribution.
Replacement flyhalf Beaudan Barrett scored New Zealand’s bonus point try to ensure the Championship, win or lose, and Read added the fifth when the All Blacks were down to 14.
The Springboks were threatening on attack but not good enough defensively.
Jean de Villiers was inspirational, as were many Boks on attack.
But there were also Boks who were not good enough to topple the best team on the planet.
South Africa’s attacking approach means there will be plaudits but the expansive nature shouldn’t be allowed to mask defensive vulnerability, sub-standard decision-making and poor execution in basic areas like kick-off receive and a second half lineout wobble that saw the Boks lose four lineout throws.
New Zealand were under the pump at the scrum but poor tactical substitutions, especially in replacing the Du Plessis brothers on the 50th minute, were decisive in determining the last quarter. The Boks were a man up at the scrum and had an attacking scrum five metres from the All Blacks tryline.
Bismarck du Plessis was furious at what appeared a pre-determined substitution. It was an error on the part of the Springbok coach and the cold reality is there were too many errors from a Bok team, that for all the flash and dazzle, simply was not good enough to win at home, at altitude and in front of 63 888 against a team that had flown in from Buenos Aires on Monday.
When the emotion of scoring four tries against the All Blacks has calmed many, when watching the tape again, won’t be as complimentary of the Boks performance.
Springboks – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Willie le Roux, Jean de Villiers. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2). Penalty: Steyn.
All Blacks – Tries: Ben Smith, Keiran Read (2), Liam Messam, Beauden Barrett. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (3), Beauden Barrett (2). Penalty: Beauden Barrett.
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 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 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
RUN OF PLAY – AS IT HAPPENED
80 SOUTH AFRICA 27-38 NEW ZEALAND
80 No advantage as Le Roux intercepts the pass, and that’s the game. A remarkable contest in Johannesburg sees New Zealand retain their title but in such dramatic fashion, South Africa getting that try bonus point but unable to prevent the All Blacks sealing one of their own. Nine tries overall in an absolute classic. Thank you for reading.
79 Slow execution now as van der Merwe loses the ball forward, NZ clearing long. Smart break by Louw but the game has descended into farce as Piutau bursts free but can’t find McCaw with the final pass. NZ back on the attack with time running out.
77 Pressure on the NZ lineout but they get the ball away, Lambie collecting the kick. Promising attack finishes as Englebrecht loses the ball forward in the tackle, so an NZ scrum outside their 22 on the right.
75 Super try-saving tackle from Barrett on Le Roux after the winger makes an interception, tapping his ankles just short of the line and forcing his foot into touch. Five metre lineout for the All Blacks.
73 Free kick to SA. Good grubber from de Villiers sends Dagg scampering back, but his kick to touch is brilliant.
71 NZ scrum just outside the SA 22. Slicing run from Nonu but NZ are pinged for accidental offside – scrum to the Boks.
69 Tired bodies all over the park as the ball goes to ground, coming back for a South African scrum. Kerr-Barlow on for A.Smith, Boks clear and then NZ lose the ball at the lineout but recover the ball for a box kick long. Kirchner pinned back and Nonu does well at the breakdown, the ball rolling into touch.
67 Test of character now for the Springboks with the chance of winning the title gone. Their defence at times, along with at the restarts. NZ scrum inside their own half – Barrett clears high and Le Roux gathers. Brilliant carry by de Villiers but Luatua knocks the ball out his hands and the All Blacks clear.
65 TRY, NEW ZEALAND, READ! 27-38: All Blacks clear the danger through Barrett, lineout to the hosts inside NZ territory. Won against the throw, Luatua clearing up at the back. Du Preez loses the ball forward so NZ attack, numbers on the left and Read is clear and away! Savea draws the man and that is a classy score. A fifth try for the All Blacks!
64 YELLOW CARD, NEW ZEALAND, B.FRANKS! Swinging arm at the breakdown from Ben Franks on Oosthuizen. Boks kick into the corner.
63 Bizarre stoppage in play as there’s a dispute given that Dane Coles isn’t down on the written teamsheet. Regardless, we play on.
61 TRY, NEW ZEALAND, BARRETT! 27-31: That is that. Beauden Barrett makes up for his earlier error by stepping through a gap and racing away untouched to score under the posts! New Zealand will retain the Rugby Championship thanks to that try bonus point. What a thriller.
59 TRY, SOUTH AFRICA, DE VILLIERS! 27-24: Astonishing. Wide ball to de Villiers who skips out of the tackles, flattens Barrett and scores! That’s the try bonus point! South Africa now having to win by more than seven points to win The Rugby Championship. Unbelievable scenes at Ellis Park.
57 Vermeulen under the high ball as SA attack again. Steyn bounces Retallick, Le Roux switching the play left as they go tight to the touchline. De Villiers nearly with an interception there but the ball goes into touch. Botched lineout by NZ and the Boks are five metres out…
56 PENALTY, NEW ZEALAND, BARRETT! 22-24: All Blacks into the lead after that simple penalty for Barrett. Still game on.
56 Phenomenal try-saving tackle by Kolisi stops Nonu just short of the line, so we come back for an NZ penalty for offside.
54 Steenkamp on for Mtawarira as NZ press forward. Savea with an astonishing run down the left touchline, brushing off tacklers and getting the All Blacks behind the gain line. Good carries from B.Franks, and then Nonu! Is he in? TMO checking the score, a fourth try for NZ will seal the Rugby Championship title.
52 Vermeulen bursts off the base. Boks coming left, Retallick gets over the ball though and wins the turnover for NZ who clear. Kirchner runs it back as the Boks look to re-establish field position, but NZ win another penalty at the breakdown. Barrett kicks deep into SA territory.
51 Scrum reversed in favour of the Boks. Five metres out, that elusive fourth try in sight. Both du Plessis brothers replaced by Strauss and Oosthuizen.
49 Absurd passage of play. It starts with Etzebeth cantering down the left touchline, before NZ turnover and chase long through Barrett putting du Preez under pressure in his 22. Kirchner takes the pass and bursts away, putting Englebrecht into space down the right touchline. He finds Le Roux inside but the tackle is huge from Savea, forcing the knock on. NZ scrum five metres from their line.
47 TRY, SOUTH AFRICA, LE ROUX! 22-21: Boks waste no time as Le Roux beats his man to get over the line, NZ watching on as Messam departed. One more try needed for South Africa…
45 YELLOW CARD, NEW ZEALAND, MESSAM! Boks win a penalty at the breakdown against McCaw and kick into the corner. Taken by Kruger, Bismarck with the ball at the base. Maul finishes, Boks five metres out. Eight phases now as the NZ defence holds. Wide now to Englebrecht who is stopped. 12 phases now, Kirchner with a strong run and Le Roux outside but he doesn’t pass, looked like a certain try there. SA persist, winning a penalty at the breakdown and Messam goes to the bin!
43 High chip from de Villiers over the top but Dagg calls an excellent mark in the corner. Boks playing with plenty of width so far. Hore replaced by Coles.
41 Restart won by Mtawarira but NZ counter-ruck and then race away through Savea, his kick just beating him into touch.
40 Steyn to start the second half – as things stand, New Zealand will retain their Rugby Championship title.
40 SOUTH AFRICA 15-21 NEW ZEALAND
40 TRY, NEW ZEALAND, MESSAM! 15-21: Hooter sounds as the All Blacks work in broken play. Keeping the ball alive, Nonu cutting in and breaking tackles. Well-worked overlap on the left-hand side and Hore combines with Messam, who cuts inside and beats Mtawarira too easily to step in and score! Great drama before half-time and NZ have three tries to SA’s two. Cruden converts and New Zealand lead by six at the interval.
40 Alberts departs, Kolisi on. Vermeulen carries well off the base and Steyn clears to just outside the SA 22.
40 Lengthy stoppage as Alberts receives treatment. Stretcher onto the field.
40 Scrappy lineout from SA but the ball is knocked forward by NZ, so the hosts have the scrum just short of their own line. Read down for treatment.
38 Scrum to SA just outside their own 22. Well set and Steyn clears long. Dagg shanks a high kick but the All Blacks regather, before kicking deep behind the defence. Pressure on the Springboks lineout before half-time.
36 Pass to Englebrecht is almost too flat on the gain-line and he loses the ball forwards, NZ kicking clear. Kirchner’s response is high but taken by Savea. Nonu’s effort is fielded and then Steyn finds a good touch inside the NZ half.
35 Excellent drive from the Boks on the second scrum and they reverse the put-in – now in a promising attacking position five metres out.
33 Good defence on that driving maul from NZ and they win a scrum five metres out from their own line.
32 Strong counter-drive from the All Blacks, advantage to the Boks. Du Preez tries to go quick but isn’t on the mark. Another lineout…
30 Boks win the lineout and feed de Villiers on the short ball. Ten metres out from the try line, de Villiers again skipping tackles. Alberts bashes up, long pass out from Bismarck gathered by Kirchner. Advantage so playing it wide but nothing comes from it, so back for the penalty. Steyn kicks into the corner.
28 Mtawarira penalised for coming from the side at a ruck, so NZ clear up to halfway through Cruden. All Blacks penalised for obstruction against Whitelock, so Steyn sets up a lineout inside the NZ 22.
28 TRY, NEW ZEALAND, MESSAM! 15-14: The All Blacks hit right back with a try through Messam – the flanker burrowing his over from close range. Cruden converts to make it a one-point game.
25 J.du Plessis penalised at the scrum, NZ clear long into the SA half. Habana forced off after pulling his hamstring, a cruel blow so Serfontein comes on and Englebrecht moves to the wing.
23 High kick from Kirchner lands perfectly just outside the 22, but the ball is knocked on as Le Roux goes to gather. All Blacks scrum deep in their half.
21 All Blacks win the restart once more and set up camp in the Boks half. Habana looks to have pulled up as he takes the mark, but passes to du Preez who finds an outstanding touch kick back into the NZ 22.
18 Restart falls the way of SA this time and they clear long. Dagg’s kick goes high and is well taken by Du Preez. Louw runs down the inside channel and gets the offload around the back to Habana, who brilliantly chips over B.Smith, gathers the ball and scores! Astonishing try and the dream is alive for SA.
15 TRY, SOUTH AFRICA, HABANA! 10-7: Free kick to NZ at the lineout. Strong double tackle on Cruden forces the scrum to the hosts in midfield. Ball comes left to de Villiers, coming from deep in attack. Vermeulen makes a half break and Habana is in! The number eight spotted the gap between Faumaina and Nonu and Habana runs around under the sticks to get the first try. Excellent response. Steyn converts.
13 Springboks desperately need a response – Smith was outstanding there the way he glided past four defenders for the try. SA lineout in the NZ half – working an opportunity again out wide but Le Roux crowds Englebrecht into touch with that pass. Springboks not making the most of their territory yet.
11 TRY, NEW ZEALAND, B.SMITH! 3-7: NZ again winning the ball at the restart, building the phases in the opposition half. Fine break on the right by Ben Smith who cuts inside and scores! Yet another try for the All Blacks winger and Ellis Park is stunned into silence. Cruden converts.
9 PENALTY, SOUTH AFRICA, STEYN! 3-0: No problem from that range for Steyn who hits the target. Springboks in the lead.
8 Great platform for SA. Advantage played as de Villiers is stopped short. Du Preez kicks the ball away and the Boks opt to go for the posts.
6 Kirchner again in the thick of the action as South Africa go over halfway. Pass flung wide and Englebrecht finds a half gap, freeing Le Roux who chips over the top and forces A.Smith to carry the ball over his dead ball line. Scrum five to the Boks.
5 Bounce favours the Boks from a high ball as they attack from within their half, Alberts and then Kirchner driving straight. Kick from Steyn bounces long and the All Blacks will have a 22.
3 Springboks clear their lines and engage into a kicking duel with Dagg who eventually lands an excellent return. SA lineout inside their own half.
1 Early pressure from New Zealand ends after seven phases when Nonu grubbers through to Kirchner. The Springboks clear but Read’s next kick is a smart one, forcing the Boks back onto their own five-metre line.
0 With the anthems complete, the All Blacks line up to perform the Haka lead by Messam. The Ellis Park crowd drown it out with rousing singing and we’re set to get underway! Cruden to kick off.
0 Dry and clear in Johannesburg as the All Blacks run out to hostile reception from the Ellis Park faithful. McCaw and his side now waiting for the Springboks as Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira runs out for his 50th Test cap.
0 Captain Richie McCaw returns to the All Blacks starting XV to play in his 120th Test but first at Ellis Park. There are two changes to the team that beat Argentina last week with tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina replacing the injured Owen Franks, who is sidelined with a groin injury. Sam Cane drops to the bench at the expense of Jeremy Thrush. Amongst the replacements Dan Coles takes over from Keven Mealamu while Ben Franks fills the gap left by Faumuina.
0 Springbok centre JJ Engelbrecht has recovered from a contusion to his quad muscle. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira will play in his 50th Test, Bismarck du Plessis rotates with Adriaan Strauss at hooker, while Juandr? Kruger comes in at lock for Flip van der Merwe. The uncapped Franco van der Merwe has been selected on the bench.
0 Hello and welcome to Ellis Park for this all-important clash in The Rugby Championship between South Africa and New Zealand. What a game we have ahead of us.