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.
“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.
“But‚ if we do badly‚ I can tell you it will be a different story.”
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.
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.
Every nrl team – even the one on the bottom of the table – has a drop goal plan. Why not the All Blacks? #NZLvsRSA
— Ali Ikram (@AliIkram) September 15, 2018
Wow!! Congrats to the Boks. The ABs really need to learn you can win by dropping goals it’s not an insult if you use that option #NZLvsRsa
— Sam[uel] Smith (@sgowsmith1988) September 15, 2018
The knock on by the All Blacks right there…did someone turn off the skills switch? #NZLvsRSA
— AC (@TheStroBro) September 15, 2018
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.
I hope every single South African who joked, criticised and mocked the @Springboks this week eat humble pie and apologise. What an effort. More than 226 tackles. Come on.
— ?y?? ????? (@CowansView) September 15, 2018
— Penza (@pedvr) September 15, 2018
Every single statistic points to a massacre. All Blacks had 75% possession, 79% territory. Boks had to make 226 tackles today. All Blacks made 46.
But it wasnt. It was a famous win.
Well done @Springboks #NZvSA
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) September 15, 2018
One of the greatest & most exciting victories I have ever witnessed by the @Springboks felt like a World Cup final, they showed guts, character and talent to bring it home! Siya Kolisi – take a bow, one hell of a leader! Rassie ? you did it! #NZLvsRSA #RugbyChampionship #Bokke
— Mandi Strimling (@MandiStrimling) September 15, 2018
Hey Springboks, that's how won World Cups, that's how Springboks play. Proud of you boys!
— Dan Retief (@Retief_Dan) September 15, 2018
Just catching up with #NZLvRSA. What a Test match! Some insanely good rugby on both sides. Immense effort from the Springboks. Been a long time coming.
— Andy Burke (@AndyBurke_) September 15, 2018
What the @Springboks did in Wellington is something that should be celebrated as 1 of the most important victories in recent history. Hats off fellaz!!
— Sensei_Juice (@MogulJuice) September 15, 2018
“We just have to respect them a little more…”Ian Foster AB assistant coach. Shouldn’t you respect all your opponents…even if you the ALL BLACKS ?#NZLvsRsa
— Eduard Coetzee (@coetzee_eduard) September 15, 2018
Love the emotion of the South African players after the game. What a win. Defence at the end unreal. Gives all the rest some hope against the ABs. Brilliant match ????#NZLvsRsa
— Shane Murphy (@smurphser) September 15, 2018
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.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now