Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea scored late tries as Rugby Championship winners New Zealand gained sweet revenge over South Africa by pulling off a rousing fightback to snatch a 32-30 victory in Pretoria.
Rassie Erasmus’ side looked set to pull off a famous double in the final match of the tournament, but the All Blacks rallied from 30-13 down with 20 minutes to play to finish on a high note at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
Tries from Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende early in the second half put the hosts in command and Cheslin Kolbe added a third after Aaron Smith had touched down at the other end, Pollard taking his tally with the boot to 15 points.
The world champions had been outplayed for much of an absorbing contest, but they left South Africa breathless at altitude when Rieko Ioane’s score was followed by Scott Barrett going over four minutes from time and Savea driving over in the final minute, Richie Mo’unga duly landing his third conversion to win the match.
New Zealand had not lost a Rugby Championship game since 2015 before their loss to the Springboks on home soil and a late rally ensured they did not go down twice in the space of three weeks.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 6, 2018
The All Blacks got off to a flying start when the two sides met in Wellington, but it was all South Africa in the opening stages this time around and Pollard booted them in front with a mammoth penalty four minutes in.
Referee Angus Gardner warned New Zealand, who named Ryan Crotty as a late replacement in the side with Jack Goodhue unwell, about their persistent indiscipline as they came under increasing pressure and Pollard doubled the Springboks’ lead from in front of the posts after desperate defending denied them an opening try.
The world champions were being starved of the ball, but Beauden Barrett showed he was not short of confidence after such a poor showing with the boot at the Westpac Stadium when he nailed a tricky penalty.
New Zealand lost Sam Cane to what appeared to be a neck injury just before Barrett levelled from the tee late in a first half South Africa had much the better of.
Erasmus’ men were deservedly back in front only four minutes after the break, Kriel bursting through a gap with a sharp turn of foot to round off a fluent move as Faf de Klerk continued to pull the strings.
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) October 6, 2018
Pollard added the extras and was on target with another brilliantly struck penalty from long range to put the hosts 16-6 up.
South Africa were relentless and they had a second try 12 minutes into the second half, Franco Mostert powering his way through the middle and feeding De Allende, who darted away to touch down.
New Zealand hit back with their first try only two minutes later, Cody Taylor making an incisive break and laying on a score for the supporting Smith, with Mo’unga converting.
The All Blacks were rocked again when Kolbe rolled over to dot down, but the prolific Ioane dived over in the left corner after he was picked out in space to make it 30-18 with 18 minutes to go.
South Africa were under the pump and Scott Barrett had the nerves jangling when he crashed over following phase after phase of All Blacks attack, then Savea finished from close range in a dramatic finale.
Mo’unga made no mistake with the conversion as the Springboks were given a taste of their own medicine in a thriller.
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