After a convincing victory against the Wallabies last weekend in Pretoria 31-8 many expected the Springboks to come out on top of the All Blacks at Soccer City in Soweto who had already claimed this year’s Rugby Championship.
But the meaning of the word losing doesn’t sit too comfortably in the Kiwi’s vocabulary ensuring that their match up against their traditional rivals South Africa was always going to be another epic battle. The Springboks had the opportunity to take an early lead over the All Blacks but young No.10 Johan Goosen missed two relatively easy shots at penalty goal in the first five minutes of play which against the All Blacks was always coming back to bite them.
With the Springboks controlling the flow of the game it wasn’t surprising to see winger Bryan Habana score the first try of the match after a cleverly executed move from the Springboks lineout put their captain Jean de Villiers into open space to pass to Habana to score his 47th Test try. With Goosen converting Habana’s try and finally kicking a penalty goal to give the Springboks a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes the All Blacks had very little possession but it was only a matter of time before the RWC champions hit back. Ten minutes later the Springboks attempted to clear the football from their own territory but All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg just managed to keep the ball in play on the right side of the field 50 metres out and after a number of fluent passes from the All Blacks, their lock Sam Whitelock scored on the opposite side of the field to send out the warning signs to the Springboks.
The Springboks lead of 10-5 didn’t last too long when All Blacks winger Hosea Gear opened up another opportunity for his half back Aaron Smith in the 32nd minute to score which was converted by Daniel Carter giving the All Blacks a 12-10 lead approaching half time. Unfortunately for Goosen he had to leave the field with a left knee injury having to be replaced by Elton Jantjies who quickly made his presence known by kicking two penalties in five minutes, the second from 50 metres out to send South Africa into the change rooms at half time leading 16-12. I don’t know what happened in the sheds but the All Blacks came out firing amazingly scoring from the kick-off after some brilliant team play with the worlds best No.8 Kieran Read popping up a pass for Ma’a Nonu to run onto the put the All Blacks back in front 19-16. The second half was all New Zealand with the Springboks attack passive and unfortunately for them they didn’t even look like scoring in the second half. Conrad Smith was next in line to score for the All Blacks when Aaron Smith, Carter and Dagg combined in the 51st minute to give the outside centre his first try of the match and stretch the All Blacks lead out to 26-16. Carter continued South Africa’s agony when he successfully attempted a field goal ten minutes later which was quickly followed up by a penalty goal to give them a comfortable victory 32-16. The All Blacks were the only team to go through the Rugby Championship undefeated and I would have to say that this current side in much stronger to the one which secured the RWC in New Zealand last year. Their emerging talent never ceases to amaze me and they could easily pick a second squad of players who would challenge the best teams in world rugby.
The All Blacks play attacking rugby because they have faith in their own ability and are willing to take calculated risks on the field knowing that all fifteen players are as one. The Springboks will also be a much better team next year with the transition of older players stepping down for the next generation of players to soon taking over. New Zealand are deserved winners of the inaugural Rugby Championship in 2012 with the Wallabies a long way behind them in second place.