All Blacks stun Springboks at packed Ellis Park despite Am-azing Lukhanyo performance

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  • The All Blacks snapped a three-Test losing streak, stunning the Springboks 35-23 at a packed and expectant Ellis Park on Saturday.
  • Lukhanyo Am was the outstanding Bok on the night, despite playing at the unfamiliar right wing after Jesse Kriel's injury.
  • The All Blacks silenced 61 000 majority home fans at Ellis Park to remain unbeaten here since 2014.


Ellis Park

Lukhanyo Am's heroics, playing in an unfamiliar role at right wing, weren't enough to extricate the Springboks out of a fire of their own making in their 35-23 defeat to the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Boks arrived fashionably late to the occasion that was supposed to be their coronation as the superior nation of the two age-old rivals.

After losing Jesse Kriel early to concussion, Am had to slot into wing and played like he was born with the No 14 stitched on his back.

He was also denied a try assist for Makazole Mapimpi which might have made the difference in the momentum and score-line.

However, the Boks have themselves to blame for the Rugby Championship reverse after making a myriad of first-half mistakes that allowed the All Blacks to gain in belief.

The first five minutes were packed with mini-battles that set a tone for what was to follow: New Zealand won a short-arm penalty in the first scrum before Sam Whitelock picked Joseph Dweba's first throw-in.

Thanks to that first scrum, the All Blacks grew confident in their pack and even asked for a scrum with a 5m penalty from the Bok try line.

Damian Willemse received an early yellow card for cynical play during an Ardie Savea clean break down the left-hand touchline.

The Boks looked to be on the ropes, with Kriel even getting the now-customary Caleb Clarke concussion before Pieter-Steph du Toit intercepted in midfield for a great midfield break.

After he was taken down, he gave a lovely offload to Am, who also fell short.

Both sides now had a sighter but no mark on the board. It would remain scoreless for the rest of the quarter, but the Boks would gain confidence in withstanding early All Black pressure with the one-man deficit.

Eventually, All Black flyhalf Richie Mo'unga broke the deadlock with a penalty 15 minutes before the break.

That was New Zealand's cue to step it up a gear and they ripped through the Boks' midfield defence through Clarke, who did the same for Shannon Frizell's score in Mbombela.

This time, NZ captain Sam Cane finished off in the corner after the Bok defence, looking stretched, gave in.

Hooker Dweba, who had a baptism of fire in his third Test, was ejected after 30 minutes, with Malcolm Marx entering the ring.

The All Blacks scored a "silencer" just seven minutes from half-time when Samisoni Taukei'aho corkscrewed over the try line in the left-hand corner.

At 15-0, if alarm bells weren't ringing that the Boks had yet to check into the game properly, then they should have been.

Nienaber was forced into activating his bomb squad early, bringing on Steven Kitshoff and Jasper Wiese for Ox Nche and Duane Vermeulen before the break.

The move seemed to work, as from the immediate lineout, the Boks moved the ball swiftly, Willemse giving it to Willie le Roux, who fed Am to do his usual whimsical Am things and beat Clarke to score in the right-hand corner.

After arriving 37 minutes late to the game, so to speak, the Boks at last produced some of what they did last week in Mbombela.

After Handre Pollard scored a penalty beyond halfway, 15-10 didn't look a bad score-line going to the sheds, although the missed tackle count mounted against the hosts.

The Boks began the second half like the ended the first, with more Vava-Voom and kept the ball better, getting more reward for their mauling and scrummages.

A key feature was Willemse moving to flyhalf and doing the playmaking, with Pollard shifting to inside centre, Damian de Allende on the outside and Am at wing.

The double-pivot was working intricately, especially with two other ball-handlers in the three-quarters in Am and Le Roux. All that was missing was the pure gas Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse would provide.

Then the tide turned again towards the visitors when Mapimpi's try, beautifully engineered by Am through a midfield break, was denied for a dubious obstruction call.

But Mapimpi got his try eventually, to a rip-roaring Ellis Park cheer, after a killer finish down his left-hand touchline. This time, referee Luke Pearce and his officiating cohorts couldn't find fault.

Pollard's conversion made it a one-point game to the visitors with precisely 20 minutes to go.

Beauden Barrett obstructed scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, who could have been clean through on goal after his toe poke, was sin-binned for his cynical play.

Pearce generously gave a penalty only after that against New Zealand when a penalty try could have been justifiable after Barrett denied Hendrikse a blatant try-scoring opportunity.

A game with more twists than the Spaghetti Interchange turned again when the All Blacks broke from their own 22m area to put a scathing move that led to David Havili's try, their third six minutes from time.

That score sucked the life out of Jacques Nienaber's men as the All Blacks went for the throat, putting the result beyond doubt with a fourth try through Scott Barrett at the death.

Scorers

South Africa 23 (10)

Tries: Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi

Conversions: Handre Pollard (2)

Penalties: Handre Pollard (3)

New Zealand 35 (15)

Tries: Sam Cane, Samisoni Taukei’aho, David Havili, Scott Barrett

Conversions: Richie Mo'unga (3)

Penalties: Richie Mo'unga (3)

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