The Springboks took on New Zealand on the 27th of July. The Springboks looking to beat the All Blacks for the second time in a row in Wellington and the All Blacks looking to win a third straight Rugby Championship needed to beat the Springboks to achieve this goal.
The opening exchanges belonged to the Boks and they made an impact on the scoreboard early on with a 3 pointer from the boot of Handre Pollard just two minutes into the game. The Springboks were pilling on the pressure in the first half with wave after wave of attack and an offside from the All Blacks meant Pollard would have an opportunity to extend the lead which he did, 6-0 to the Boks after ten minutes.
The first half was all the Springboks with all the territory and possession however they didn’t manage to turn that into anymore points and they were made to pay for that late I the first half when a turn over from the All Blacks led to them scoring the first try of the game. From the turn over the ball was skipped out wide by Sonny-Bill to the dangerous Beauden Barrett. Barrett used the space on the outside to great effect and when confronted by Willie le Roux found support on his inside from Jack Goodhue, who ran away from the scrambling SA defenders to score for the All Blacks, Barrett then converted the try to make it 7-6 to the All Black at the break.
The second half was much like the first half, only the roles were reversed. The All Blacks came out both a point to prove and dominated the exchanges from the start of the half and would extend their lead in the forty-ninth minute through the boot of Barrett once more, 10-6 with thirty minutes to play in this one.
New Zealand continued to dominate the play but the defense from the Springboks held firm as they kept the dangerous All Blacks at bay. They were rewarded in the sixty-first minute of the game when the Boks won a scrum penalty somewhat against the run of play and virtually straight forty meters from goal would not present a challenge for Springbok fly half Handre Pollard who slotted the kick with ease, 10-9 to the All Blacks and it was looking like we would be in for a tense finish in Wellington.
Just five minutes later and the All Blacks had another opportunity to extend their lead back to four points once again when the Springboks were penalized for offside, this time it was Richie Mo’unga who stepped up and got the three points for his team, 13-9 with just under fifteen minutes to play.
In the seventy-fourth minute the All Blacks were awarded yet another penalty after François Louw was penalized for sealing off the ball. The Ref though missed a knock on in the build up to that ruck which could have been vital to the out-come nevertheless Mo’unga stepped up and smashed the kick which meant the Springboks had a mountain to climb and only five minutes to do so.
On to the last minute of the game and the Springboks had the ball on the halfway line, some good handling from the backs saw Cheslin Kolbe into space down the righthand flank, Kolbe realizing the cover defense would get to him before he could get to the try line he chipped the ball inside the New Zealand twenty-two in the hope he would find someone in support of his kick. There were three players running to try secure possession of the ball Aaron Smith of the All Blacks and Pieter-Steph and Herschel Jantjies from the Springboks and after a juggle of his shoulder the two try hero from the week before, Jantjies came away with the ball and a try in the last minute to set up a kick for Pollard to tie the game, Pollard secured a come from behind draw with his kick as this one ended all square in Wellington.
Positives; the Boks showed we can dominate the All Blacks for at least on half of a rugby game. We showed great defense in the second half when the All Blacks looked to turn up the heat and kept them from crossing the line for a try. Scoring in the last minute showed a never die attitude that will serve us well going forward into the world cup later this year
Negatives; we were not able to convert pressure into more points by half time. Discipline in the second half could have cost us the game if the All Blacks had been more aggressive in their game plan i.e. kicking for the corner to get tries instead of taking points on offer. The Springboks next task will be to take on the Pumas in Buenos Aries and the Boks will need to beat them if they want win the Rugby Championship. Winning this tournament will not make us favorites to win the World Cup but it is a major step forward as we have been largely out played in the Championship for the last few years and while I think we are still possibly a step behind the All Blacks, the gap has closed considerably since Rassie has taken over the team. The stars may be aligning for another memorable World Cup run for the mighty Springboks. The World Cup squad will be announced on the 25th of August and I for one am counting down the days.