The Springboks had a perfect opportunity to get back at the All Blacks on the weekend after a disappointing season so far drawing with the Pumas 16-16 in Mendoza and losing to the Wallabies 26-19 in Perth a couple of weeks ago.
Before the match All Blacks coach Steve Hansen announced that exciting half back Aaron Smith had been dropped from the starting team after breaking team curfews following their scrappy win over the Pumas last weekend in Wellington with Piri Weepu taking over his position.
It was only fitting that this match was played in Dunedin where it all started in 1921 for both proud rugby nations who first played against each other and 83 Test matches later the intensity and passion is still there.
The Springboks had their best chance ever to take the lead after only four minutes of play but a wayward pass which went behind Bryan Habana’s head with the line wide open was a sign of what was to follow.
Morne Steyn put scored the first points of the match in the 17th minute when he kicked a penalty goal to give the Springboks the lead 3-0 but the normally reliant sharp shooter kicked poorly throughout the match that was there for the taking.
Against New Zealand you simply cannot afford to miss major opportunities and the Springboks will rue this match as one that got away.
The All Blacks scored the first and only try in the first half in the 20th minute courtesy of a fabulous counter-attack off a deep Springboks kick.
All Blacks full back Israel Dagg was the scorer after featuring four times in the movement, through two quite brilliant off-loads by Sam Whitelock and then Kieran Read who created the opportunity for the full back to race clear to the try line from thirty metres out.
Poor kicking from Steyn who missed three penalty attempts should have kept the Springbok in the game and quite possibly ahead at half time but instead the Kiwi’s went into the break leading 5-3 in a close contest.
Hansen didn’t waste any time in bringing on Smith who replaced Weepu for the second half but it was the Springboks who were quick to set the tone when their flying winger Bryan Habana did it all himself when in the 43rd minute took a close pass from the line-out to chipp over the top of Dagg before regathering to put the South Africans in the led 8-3.
Eight minutes later All Blacks No.10 Aaron Cruden even the score 8 all when his kicked a penalty goal with the game swinging either way.
But Smith stole the show when in the 59th minute he spotted big Flip van der Merve in front of him, slipped around him with ease and had the skill and the gas to leave the cover defense for dead to break the deadlock which was converted by Cruden to stretch the lead 15-8.
When Boks replacement prop Dean Greyling was sin-binned soon after for a cheap shot on Ritchie McCaw at a ruck, it was always going to be a long haul back for the South Africans.
They briefly threatened when a Johan Goosen penalty got them back to within four, but two Cruden penalties secured victory for the All Blacks that was every bit hard earned as it looked.
The South Africans looked as if they didn’t have a clear strategy and kicked far too much in general play which made their job so much harder against the best team in world rugby.
Steyn missed his only conversion attempt, kicked one out his of four penalty attempts but his namesake Francois Steyn missed his two long range penalty attempts with Johan Goosen also kicking one from two which was inadequate at this level.
All Blacks skipper Ritchie McCaw who ended the match hobbling badly was huge for the New Zealanders demonstrating all his qualities in his 110th Test appearance.
Luke Romano had another impressive outing in the black jersey up front while Israel Dagg, Corey Jane and Smith off the bench all showed their class when clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.
The All Blacks will soon be crowned champions in the inaugural Rugby Championship with only two more rounds to go and they are deserving victors because they are consistent and play positive rugby which excites fans from around the rugby world.