Kieran Read was pleased with the clinical edge New Zealand showed as they saw off South Africa 23-13 in their opening game at the Rugby World Cup.
The Springboks started the highly anticipated Pool B clash in Yokohama – which will also host the final – positively but only scored three points through Handre Pollard during their period of dominance.
When Richie Mo’unga set upon a loose pass from Faf de Klerk and was illegally challenged by Makazole Mapimpi, the fly-half restored parity and kick-started a six-minute spell in which the reigning champions racked up 17 points.
George Bridge scored his eighth try in six Tests before a handling error from Pollard preceded Scott Barrett running in the All Blacks’ second.
Pieter-Steph du Toit made the most of some slack New Zealand defending after the restart and Pollard was successful with a drop-goal from distance, but Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett kept the Springboks at arm’s length from the tee.
“It was a heck of Test match. It was the full 80 minutes that we had to work,” said All Blacks skipper Read.
“You’re fortunate [that] sometimes it just happens in those couple of moments and we managed to take them. That’s probably the difference in the game.
“We had to defend a little bit early on and when you don’t have the ball you can’t do too much, so when we did get opportunities we wanted to try to speed the game up.”
2 – South Africa have lost the opening match of their last two @rugbyworldcup campaigns (also v Japan in 2015), they’d won their opening game in each of their previous five tournaments. Halted. #NZLvRSA #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/UFz7W0iQIO
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) September 21, 2019
Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi was frustrated his team did not punish New Zealand further when they had the chance, having reduced their arrears to four points in the second half.
“I think we took too long to get into the game,” said Kolisi, despite his side appearing to be firmly on top during the first quarter.
“I think we stuck to our guns and our plan worked in the second half. We wanted to score first and it happened, but we couldn’t capitalise on our opportunities.”
Beauden Barrett, who started at full-back, played on with a bloody nose after being hit in the face by Duane Vermeulen’s boot when trying to tackle the forward.
Barrett said: “It’s a bit sore. It’s never good getting a boot to the nose, especially from a big lad like Duane. You expect to take a few bumps when you play the Springboks, so it was worth it.
“We got to throw the ball around a bit – sometimes too much, it was a bit greasy out there, but there was some expansive rugby. If we can keep doing that all tournament that’s what we’re here for.”
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