Boks truimph at home

2014-10-05 08:00

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The Springboks tried hard to make sure it wasn’t all about kicking, but in the end, it was a kick – a glorious penalty by Patrick Lambie – that finally halted a horrid series of defeats to their old nemesis, the All Blacks.

The Boks played arguably the most adventurous brand of rugby they have under Heyneke Meyer to have the All Blacks under the cosh, holding a 24-13 lead with just 13 minutes left to play, but then the black tide rolled in and tries by Ben Smith and Dane Coles put Richie McCaw’s men in front, 25-24.

It seemed a stirring and valiant effort by the Boks would fall agonisingly short, but an outside agency was about to intervene – the all-seeing eye of the television cameras.

Referee Wayne Barnes had already awarded a scrum to the All Blacks for a knock-on by the Springboks, but then his attention was drawn to an incident spotted by the television match official.

The replays showed that Liam Messam had illegally shoulder-charged Burger. The referee viewed the incident himself and decided not to yellow-card Messam, but to award the Boks a penalty – not where the incident had occurred, but a good 30m further from the posts.

It fell to Lambie, who had replaced one of the stars of the game, Handrè Pollard, to take the responsibility for winning the game as he placed the ball 5m inside his own half.

His kick was pure and eruption of noise that greeted the flags going up was an apt expression of the joy felt by fans who for so long had not been able to cheer a Springbok victory over the All Blacks.

The win broke a run of five successive defeats under Meyer and was the first for the Boks over the All Blacks since a win in Port Elizabeth in 2011.

With less than a year to go to the Rugby World Cup in England, the victory will work wonders for the confidence of the Springboks and could well turn out to be a watershed moment.

A rousing rendition of the anthem had signalled that a jam-packed Ellis Park was right behind the Springboks and Jean de Villiers and his men quickly showed that they intended to channel the emotion positively.

The Boks took the ball wide at every opportunity and wiped out Beauden Barrett’s first score, a penalty, with a wonderful try by Francois Hougaard.

Showing that they had been given the licence to run, Willie le Roux let the ball out across his own posts and a neat grubber on the far side and strong run by Jan Serfontein was finished off as the chunky scrum half flashed up to carry the ball home in a 40m sprint to the line.

The All Blacks were struggling to win a clean ball and set up solid phases at the line-outs and were clearly rattled by the Springboks’ determination to play the ball to the extremities.

It was not surprising when the Boks worked Bryan Habana away on the outside.

The Bok sprinter smashed through Israel Dagg’s tackle to make ground upfield and when he was caught by the cover defence, prop Jannie du Plessis was there to take the pass.

The Boks set a fiery ruck and when the ball came out, young Pollard took it on himself to take on the line, step bewilderingly and crash over under the crossbar.

Pollard converted to put the Boks 14-6 clear, but it did not take long for the All Blacks to show why they take so much watching.

Aaron Smith managed to shuffle the ball away to Julian Savea from a scrum that was in trouble and the winger sprinted strongly, chipped-and-gathered the ball himself to take the thrust into the Springboks’ 22.

The All Blacks recycled quickly and when the ball got to Barrett, he expertly worked the space to set the powerful Malakai Fekitoa charging up the middle for a try at the posts. Barrett’s conversion meant the visitors were right back in it at 14-13.

But far from being rattled, the Boks kept to their attacking mind-set and in spite of some big calls by referee Barnes going against them, they maintained the momentum and upset the usual All Black pattern by scoring just before half time.

A scrum right on the line provided the bridgehead and when the ball came out, Pollard took it flat, crashed into the defenders and rolled through McCaw’s tackle to score.

The young fly half added the conversion, at that point his 16th of the match, to take the Boks to the break 21-13.

Pollard kicked a penalty to extend the Boks’ lead, but as the match entered the last quarter, there were signs of the Boks tiring as the All Blacks started to set up camp in their half.

It was confirmed that the Boks were struggling when another well-coordinated move created the space for reserve hooker Dane Coles to be the man free on the outside for the All Blacks’ third try.

Barrett’s conversion failed, but the All Blacks had regained the lead, 24-25.

With four minutes to go, Lambie stood back to try a drop, but the ball sailed wide.

There was a heart-stopping moment when it seemed Cobus Reinach might break clear, but then came Messam’s rash tackle, which gave Lambie his chance.

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