South Africa was leading by a whopping 12 points – with four minutes to play – in their match against world champions New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday… but in the very last minute the All Blacks staged a stunning comeback to secure a heartbreaking 32-30 victory over the Springboks.
Sadly for South Africa, New Zealand’s replacement flanker Ardi Savea scored a try in that final minute… allowing the Kiwis to avenge their 36-34 loss against the South Africans in Wellington last month.
The Springboks can certainly walk with their heads held high – after dominating Saturday’s game… but it only makes the loss even harder to bear. A double victory against the All Blacks was well within their grasp.
The Boks dominated possession and territory in the first half with clever tactical kicking to keep the visitors pinned in their own half.
But that did not translate to the scoreboard as the teams went into the break at 6-6 after two penalties each.
The Boks made the brighter start to the second period and within four minutes they grabbed the lead after fullback Willie le Roux, playing his 50th test, scythed through a gap and Jesse Kriel finished the move with a fine break of his own.
The Boks were in rampant mood now and after scrumhalf Faf de Klerk had botched the chance for a second try with a poor pass, they scored again when captain Siya Kolisi burst through a tackle and fed Damian De Allende to race across the line.
But New Zealand hit back with a typically incisive counter-attack to score.
The momentum remained with the home side, though, and Cheslin Kolbe stretched to dot the ball down on the line in the corner, with Pollard adding the difficult conversion.
But New Zealand are famous for upping the game in the final 20 minutes and they did so again.
“For 70 minutes we did a lot of things right, but we had some soft moments and against the No 1 team in the world you can’t afford to do that,” said Kolisi.
“We let it go at the end, they were more alert than us.
“It was really good at times, we will have to learn from this and go back and look at we need to do next time.
“But I’m proud of the way the team is growing.”
Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby South Africa, said: “I’m definitely happy with the progress and the growth we have shown. South African rugby fans are not stupid and there will be criticism of this defeat, but we have shown growth and we will cling on to that.
“The last three games between us have been decided by no more than two points and when we run out against them now, the game can go either way. I’m proud we’ve got back to that position.
“It gives me hope that and belief that if we do a few things right we will be in with a real chance at the next year’s World Cup.”
New Zealand captain Kieran Read said: “Both teams were outstanding and across the two games we are split even on the scoreboard,” at the post-match presentation.
“We hung in there, when they got a bit of momentum we were able to stymie it and come back. We showed great respect to the Boks, but both teams have got great respect for each other.”
The Springboks are next in action against England at Twickenham on 3 November.
Sources include SANews and Reuters. (Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Ed Osmond and Jenni Baxter)