Bok Shock: Springboks bounce back to stun All Blacks on Gold Coast
What a difference seven days makes.
Just a week after the Springboks drew the ire of almost every rugby player, coach, fan, journalist, commentator, analyst and pundit for their dire style of play, the South Africans threw the kitchen sink at the All Blacks in their quest to redeem themselves for last Saturday’s 19-17 defeat in Townsville.
They did just that as the Springboks emerged with a 31-29 win in front of a near-capacity crowd on the Gold Coast as the reigning world champions won back the respect they lost in their recent string of losses.
That’s because rather than opting to kick at every possible opportunity and trying to slow the game down with needless or pedantic medical checks, the Springboks decided to actually have some fun with ball in hand and match New Zealand’s attacking intent.
The result was a far better-quality test match, one that was far more fitting for last week’s 100th test match between the two nations rather than this week’s 101st clash.
Both teams had moments of brilliance throughout the encounter, and, after signalling their intent to run the ball more often in the opening stages of the game, the Springboks were the first to strike through Damian de Allende after the All Blacks fluffed their lines deep inside their own 22.
Lukhanyo Am scooped up the loose pill and flung a Benji Marshall-esque flick pass behind his back into the clutches of Sbu Nkosi, who then showed great composure to draw the defender and put de Allende over in the corner.
That piece of play alone contained more razzle from the Springboks than the entirety of last week’s clash, but it didn’t take long for the All Blacks to respond.
Seven minutes later, it was Sevu Reece who registered New Zealand’s first try after he latched onto a pinpoint cross-kick from Beauden Barrett, who appeared to take on defence coach Scott McLeod’s message earlier in the week that the South African wings tend to jam in on defence.
That’s exactly what Makazole Mapimpi did, which gave Reece plenty of space out wide to field the ball and beat the oncoming covering tackle from Duane Vermeulen to slide over by the right-hand corner flag.
A clearing kick from Springboks fullback Willie le Roux, who endured a torrid time under the high ball and made some poor choices with ball in hand, gave the All Blacks a lineout near halfway.
The @Springboks have snatched victory from the All Blacks and reclaimed their World No.1 ranking on the Gold Coast in the most dramatic fashion
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2021
After referee Matthew Carley told off a South African staff member for giving the assistant referee a piece of his mind, the All Blacks struck with a beautifully-crafted set piece move.
Beauden Barrett broke the line with a direct, incisive run before firing a reverse offload to Rieko Ioane, who showed immense balance and strength to stay on his feet in the midst of a few South African tacklers, before feeding Ardie Savea to score near the posts.
It was a cracking piece of play that was complemented shortly afterwards when Scott Barrett redeemed himself for a silly piece of ill-discipline early in the first half that nearly gifted the Springboks three points.
By swatting the ball into the hands of Brad Weber from a lineout close to the South African tryline, Barrett effectively assisted the diminutive halfback’s fortuitous try as he scampered away down the sideline to give the All Blacks nine-point buffer as half-time beckoned on the horizon.
South Africa’s deficit could have been slashed had hooker Bongi Mbonambi finished off what would have been a barnstorming try midway through the first half, but his outstretched attempt to score was ultimately ruled short of the line by a matter of centimetres.
That proved to be Mbonambi’s most significant piece of play throughout the encounter as he and his fellow front rowers were all subbed off a minute-and-a-half before half-time in a surprise tactical decision by Springboks head coach Jacques Neinaber.
Likewise, the All Blacks could also have added to their lead if Anton Lienert-Brown had enough pace to beat Nkosi’s covering tackle and cap off Jordie Barrett’s electric run through the middle of the field in the closing stages of the half.
However, a penalty goal to Pollard on the stroke of half-time was the only addition to the 20-14 scoreline at the break.
Further changes were made by the Springboks at half-time as veteran fullback Francois Steyn was thrust into the action in place of le Roux, and the 34-year-old provided South Africa with masterclass kicking display.
Steyn made up for a desperately unsuccessful attempt at a 50/22 by succeeding with his second attempt in the space of just a handful of minutes, and the latter attempt was crucial as it laid the platform for the Springboks to score their second try of the clash.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2021
The lineout inside New Zealand’s red zone enabled the Springboks to build pressure deep inside Kiwi territory, and, after a multitude of phases, the South Africans picked out Mapimpi to score untouched on the left wing.
That play swung the momentum in South Africa’s favour, and although Pollard missed the ensuing conversion, he had landed a penalty just five minutes after the break, meaning the Springboks had edged in front by 22-20.
A further three points was added by replacement playmaker Elton Jantjies near the hour-mark, and the All Blacks began to face a kind of pressure they hadn’t come across all year.
It showed as well, as Beauden Barrett’s attempt to replicate his cross-field kicking exploits failed spectacularly when he pick out a heavily-marked Rieko Ioane from inside his own 22, only for the ball to sail into touch on the full.
Not long after that, replacement hooker Asafo Aumua gave the ball away far too easily from a set move at the lineout just five metres from the opposition tryline – one of many problems the All Blacks encountered against the Springboks at the set piece.
It wasn’t until Steyn was penalised for a late charge on Jordie Barrett while in the process of a clearing kick that those nerves began to settle as the Kiwi fullback drilled a penalty through the posts from about 45 metres out.
That made the scoreline 25-23 with 12 minutes to play, and New Zealand’s fortunes continued to turn when a dubious refereeing call saw Steyn penalised for not rolling away from a spot tackle on Damian McKenzie in spite of the fact he had won the ball while making the tackle and still on his feet.
Up stepped Jordie Barrett, who continued his clutch goal-kicking form to nail a relatively easy penalty kick from about 30 metres out to give the All Blacks a one-point lead five minutes from full-time.
However, from the re-start, a failed kick for touch by Richie Mo’unga allowed Vermeulen to charge upfield, and as soon as he was taken to ground, the Springboks were handed an advantage for a breakdown infringement.
Jantjies slipped into the pocket and nailed a long-range drop goal to give the Springboks the lead once more in what could easily have been the match-winning score.
That was until a piece of Jordie Barrett aerial magic from the ensuing re-start won the All Blacks the ball back, and, just seconds later, an error by Franco Mostert gifted the Kiwis yet another chance to steal the match at the death.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2021
In eerily similar circumstances to last week, Jordie Barrett again lined up another shot at goal, this time from a bit further out and on a harsher angle, to swing the ball just past the inside of the right-hand post.
That should have sealed the result, but the Springboks had one last defensive piece of brilliance up their sleeve as Vermeulen timed an entry into a breakdown to perfection to steal a penalty with 10 seconds on the clock.
With his massive boot, Steyn could have perhaps taken the shot at goal from his own 10 metre line on the angle, but he instead decided to boot for touch, with the ball landing inside the Kiwi 22.
The Springboks then set their rolling maul and marched their way upfield before Herschel Jantjies spun the ball wide as the South African backline tried to pierce New Zealand’s defensive line.
While they couldn’t do that, New Zealand’s overeagerness cost them dearly as their entire defensive line was pinged for being offside.
Carley had no hesitation to blow his whistle and hand the Springboks a penalty right in front of the posts, and Elton Jantjies did the honours by slotting the ball through the posts three minutes into injury to hand the Springboks one of the most exciting, exhilarating and unexpected comeback wins in recent memory.
Springboks 31 (Tries to Damian de Allende and Makzaole Mapimpi; 4 penalties to Handre Pollard, 2 penalties and drop goal to Elton Jantjies)
All Blacks 29 (Tries to Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea and Brad Weber; conversion and 4 penalties to Jordie Barrett)
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