Cape Town – Never mind the three defeats they took in the Rugby Championship prior to this game. Never mind the setbacks. With this one performance, the Springboks stamped down their authority as world champions.
After suffering an agonising 17-19 defeat against New Zealand in their 100th Test in Townsville last week, the Springboks came back to pull off a stunner of a victory against the All Blacks, winning the game 31-29.
There was no shortage of things that stood out in this battle.
For one, the way the Boks fought back to win this classic was incredible. After being 11-20 down just before half time, they ran in 20 points in the second half to come out on top in a thriller of a contest.
Last week, the Boks lost by two points to the Kiwis in a game they could have won. This week, they started strongly and well in control, held their own in pressure moments when they were behind, and came back from a significant points deficit to show that they can chase games.
The way they varied their game was one of the best takeouts.
They stuck to their traditional strengths, with their pack putting in a big performance, their lineout, despite a couple of issues, worked a treat overall and their maul was a beautiful sight. Their kicking game was good. And one of the most pleasing stats to see was the metres and carries made department, where the Boks clocked 378 metres compared to the Kiwis’ 312 and 86 carries to their 82. Not only that, but the tackle stats were also telling – 120 compared to the South Africans’ 109.
The replacements and timing of the subs was also effective, and the Bomb Squad was fire.
There were also some stunning moments of magic, like Lukhanyo Am’s offload I’m the build-up to Damian de Allende’s try and replacement Frans Steyn’s 50-22 kick that laid the foundation for Makazole Mapimpi’s try. There was Duane Vermeulen’s superb breakdown steal which won the Boks a penalty right in front of the posts. And how about Elton Jantjies’ drop goal from 40 metres out?
If ever we needed a performance to show that the Boks can do both – excite and dominate physically – Saturday’s game should be the poster.
After an emphatic Series win over the British & Irish Lions, this game was the perfect topping.
So much for ‘unfit, unskilled, unnerved’. This Springbok performance screamed ‘world champions!’.