Rugby Championship

Boks break 8-year hoodoo in physical style with profound manhandling of All Blacks

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Eben Etzebeth (Getty)
Eben Etzebeth (Getty)
  • The Springboks broke their eight-year home hoodoo against the All Blacks when they beat them 26-10 at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.
  • Nothing about the win was pretty, but it was the quintessential Springbok performance that was based on hi-octane physicality and aggressive defence.
  • They finished the game with 14 men when try-scorer Kurt-Lee Arendse was sent off, but the gap was big enough to see out the game comfortably despite conceding a late try.


 

In Mbombela

The Springboks produced an uncompromisingly physical, rabidly aggressive and their most tactical assured showing since becoming World Champions to break their eight-year hoodoo against the All Blacks by beating them 26-10 at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.

They may have finished the game with 14 men after try-scorer Kurt-Lee Arendse knocked himself out and got sent off for taking out Beauden Barrett in the air, but they were too far ahead at that point.

They may have failed to keep the All Blacks tryless in a Bok win for the first time since the Wellington success in 1998, but the 16-point buffer was by far their most convincing winning margin in the professional era.

It wasn't pretty - seldom is the Bok way of rugby - and it is said that only a mother could love how they go about their business.

However, they earned the love of not just the 42 387 who packed into the giraffe-propped nation, but the entire country.

It was aggressive.

It was physical.

It was faultless and flawless in every sense.

In what was a frenzied start, the Boks suffered a massive blow when just 40 seconds into the game, hometown hero Faf de Klerk was knocked out cold when he successfully tackled All Black wing Caleb Clarke.

The capacity crowd went into a hush, but cheered 'Faffie, Faffie, Faffie' in a lovingly loud, but futile attempt to get him to wake up.

He was able to signal a thumbs up as he was stretchered off, much to the delight of the crowd that packed the stadium to a point where none of the zebra-striped seats was visible.

When he reappeared again in the 19th-minute, the decibels of the cheers exceeded that of Arendse's try.

From the scrum that followed De Klerk's injury, the Springboks initially forced a freekick, from where the next scrum was a penalty.

The message sent to the All Blacks was loud and clear.

The resultant lineout maul and the rest in the first half were well defended by the All Blacks, a sign of the first fast learning from new forwards coach Jason Ryan.

However, it became clear the Boks, with slight variations here and there, were going to ask the same question over and over until the All Blacks had an answer.

The Boks' kicking game had come under serious scrutiny in the Wales series, but it resulted in the Boks' first try through Arendse in the eighth-minute.

Handre Pollard's up-and-under was pin-point, and so was Arendse's chase that saw him beat Beauden Barrett to the ball.

He tapped back to Lukhanyo Am and a few phases later, Arensdse scored a try that simply blew off the roof.

The Boks' modus operandi became simple in that they kept the ball in close quarters until an overlap was created.

The said overlaps, because of New Zealand's rush defence, prevented them from coming, but the kicking game was the one that created the space.

One such moment was in the 25th minute where the aerial ping-pong created space on the outside that the Boks exploited well.

However, with two men on his outside, Damian de Allende chose to put in a grubber instead of motoring forward or passing.

Allied with Pollard's 22nd-minute penalty that emanated from a ruck offence by All Black captain Sam Cane, that potential try would have taken the Springboks two scores ahead.

That said, the All Blacks were being out-muscled in the collisions and scrums, but found a way to get forward.

Once such moment was a helter-skelter movement started by Beauden Barrett when he excellently kept in a Damian Willemse touch-finder that would have resulted in a 50:22 lineout for the Boks.

With the defence scattered, he took on a mazy run, that ended near the halfway line with a knock-on.

The one thing the Boks did in their defence was to be aggressive, even though they battled to read the pass out from behind from the All Blacks (which they rehearsed religiously this week) that created an extra man on attack.

They also forced the All Blacks into pick-and-drives that allowed the Boks to be successfully selective with their breakdown scavenges.

The All Blacks, who hardly got any purchase in the Boks' half and the few times they got into the 22, only had a 35th-minute Jordie Barrett penalty to show for their efforts.

The second half started with plenty of endeavour from both sides, with New Zealand again showcasing their counter-attacking danger, but it was the Boks who put points on the board through Pollard's 51st-minute penalty.

That pushed the buffer to 10 points, something that was going to force the All Blacks to do most, if not all of the playing.

The All Blacks were also dealt a blow when Jordie Barrett came off in the 53rd-minute, with the excellent Malcolm Marx also coming off a minute later with a suspected shoulder injury sustained while effecting yet another turnover.

The All Blacks though, were playing with far more venom and intent, upon the realisation of chasing the game, but they were also error-strewn.

Australian referee Angus Gardner, who's generally not the best of match officials on any given day, policed the breakdowns and the offside line (New Zealand's in particular) with an eagle eye.

Nothing got away from him and to his credit, penalised the teams equally on the same offences. This was probably one of his better, if not best Test match.

The Boks took advantage then took advantage of a 56th-minute All Black offside penalty to work their way upfield, from where Pollard landed a drop-goal.

The clear two-converted try gap forced the All Blacks to be even desperate in their attack, which meant accuracy and handling were sacrificed.

Where they improved significantly was in the scrums and the line-out contestation, even though the Boks were equal to the task.

What the All Blacks couldn't do wasn't to play beyond the advantage line for any significant amount of time, with one instance forcing a 72nd-minute penalty that Pollard converted to push the gap out to 16 points.

The All Blacks did capitalise on the one-man advantage when a Caleb Clarke break lead to Shannon Frizzell's 79th-minute try.

However, the Boks' aggressive defence forced another mistake that led to Willie le Roux's try that simply blew the roof off the acoustically excellent stadium

They earned it!

Scorers:

South Africa: (10) 26

Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Willie le Roux

Conversions: Handre Pollard (2)

Penalties: Pollard (3)

Drop goal: Pollard

New Zealand: (3) 10

Try: Shannon Frizzell

Conversion: Richie Mo'unga

Penalty: Jordie Barrett


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