Heading into the All Blacks first clash against the Springboks in 2018, new coach Rassie Erasmus had lost two Rugby Championship games in a row against Argentina and Australia.

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With the All Blacks at the top of the rugby world, the expectation was that they would beat South Africa handsomely after previous wins at home of 57-0 in 2017 and 41-13 in 2016. They had not lost at home since 2009 during the stretch of their two World Cup-winning campaigns.

Before the match Rassie Erasmus claimed he was under pressure to retain his job even after committing to SARU on a long term contract.

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The Breakdown | Episode 18

“Yes‚ I do think so‚” he responded when asked about his prospects diminishing after a defeat to the New Zealanders.

“Maybe I will not be fired immediately but pressure will definitely mount‚” Erasmus said.

“I will probably not be in the seat in the next couple of matches and somebody else will be here.

“For me to survive is very important and if we can beat the All Blacks here‚ everyone will think that there is growth and we have a realistic chance of winning the World Cup next year.

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“But‚ if we do badly‚ I can tell you it will be a different story.”

The Springboks started slow out of the blocks with the All Blacks scoring two early tries to Jordie Barrett and Aaron Smith, falling to a 12-0 deficit.

Staring down the gun barrel, the Springboks managed to score two quick tries with Willie Le Roux setting up Aphiwe Dyantyi before grabbing one himself when an ill-advised quick lineout throw went astray.

The Springboks were able to build a 24-17 halftime lead which quickly exploded to 31-17 when debutant Cheslin Kolbe pinched an intercept just minutes into the second half.

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The All Blacks kept punching back with tries despite an off-night from Beauden Barrett where 8 points were left on the field through missed kicks.

Down to the last possession of the game, the Springboks clung on to a 2-point lead up 36-34 as the All Blacks pressed their goal line.

The moment would become a massive talking point and criticism of Steve Hansen’s side following the match with the All Blacks’ leadership thrown into question.

The All Blacks spread the ball wide in search of a try when a rushing Dyantyi pressured Damian McKenzie, stripping the ball one-on-one and forcing a knock-on.

With unmarked men outside him, the All Blacks would have surely scored but the knock-on ended the game with the clock already well-passed 80-minutes.

The Springboks players immediately became overwhelmed with emotion as they just pulled off what many thought was impossible.

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All Black coach Steve Hansen said his side’s dressing room was in a sombre mood following the defeat with the pain of the loss setting in.

“Any time you lose, of course it hurts,” Hansen said after the match.

“The dressing room’s very somber, very quiet.

“It doesn’t happen very often – but it’s important we learn something from it, otherwise it’s a waste of time.”

One of the Springbok heroes from the win, Willie Le Roux, said the embattled side had been playing for the support of the people back home in order to restore national pride in the Springboks.

“We said the whole week, us 23 guys playing, management, all the guys travelling with, training against us, it’s about putting the pride back in the jersey,” he said.

“It’s about making the people back home proud.”

Erasmus said they had been targetting this game to prove their World Cup credentials as ‘nobody beats them there’.

“We could have lost this game in the last minute, so we were a bit lucky,” said Erasmus.

“But we are very relieved and very proud to beat New Zealand in New Zealand.

“Our big thing was, and all respect to New Zealand,  when we started the planning we said one way of coming back [from a couple of poor seasons] was beating New Zealand in New Zealand and that was months ago.

“When we lost those two games in a row, you do lose some belief, but we always targeted this game to turn things around and be real contenders at the World Cup.”

 

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