All Blacks demoralise the Springboks
Golly, how truth will out.
This match was to be the one that told the truth, the moment of truth, and perhaps it did. Perhaps it did when it told the world that the Springboks this year are not better than they were last year or in any of their other 127 years of Test rugby. Never in those 127 years have then been so thrashed – thrashed and humiliated – as they were in this, their biggest-ever defeat.
Nobody walking free anywhere in the world would have forecast such a score – not even the most ardent and optimistic of New Zealanders. Everybody in New Zealand would have underestimated the All Blacks. If truth be told, the All Blacks would have underestimated themselves!
But weren't they magnificent? This must be one of the greatest international performances the world has ever seen – unflappable, clinical, skilled, composed, any positive adjective you would like to use. When they had had just 39% of possession and 29% of territory, they still led 17-0, and after that they got better and better.
They lathered the Springboks in every facet of the game. They handled better, they ran straighter, they were quicker in everything they did, they tackled better, they kicked better, they rucked better, they mauled better, they lineouted better and they scrummed better. This match and this team should be preserved in finest gold.
The Springbok pack was supposed to be too strong for the All Blacks. The All Blacks won five of their line-outs and reduced them to chaos in others. They forced the Springboks into five scrum penalties.
The All Blacks' speed of action was much, much greater than the South Africans'. They ran faster and passed more quickly, but then it started at source. They got the ball back more quickly and away from the tackle more quickly. Having a scrumhalf who takes meaningless steps, making slow ball slower, makes life too hard for backs, for it eats up their space and the defensive speed of Ryan Crotty's back pressurised the Springboks into numerous handling errors.
This match was reminiscent of that one in Brisbane in 2006 when the Wallabies walloped the Springboks 49-0. That is the last time the Springboks failed to score in a rugby Test and this time their opponents scored eight more than the Wallabies did that June. In 2006 the Springboks lost five in a row but they won a match just before the end of the season – beating, of all people, the All Blacks.
But now it is known that beating a weakened French side three times and an uncoordinated Argentinian side twice, does not make you world beaters. And you admire all the more the feat of the B&I Lions in sharing a series with the All Blacks earlier this year.
There were the anthems and the "Uit die blou" part of the South African anthem was louder than the rest, indicating the large number of ex pat South Africans in the crowd. The All Black haka was O panga, indicating their determination to blow the Springboks away.
The Springboks won the toss, the only thing they won on the day. They chose the kick-off, and that became a flop when they missed the first tackle and lost the first line-out despite complicated choreography. The All Blacks attacked and Courtnall Skosan saved.
In the rest of the match the Springbok wings were as vulnerable on defence as prematch predictions suggested that they would be.
Rieko Ioane was offside but Elton Jantjies missed the fairly straightforward kick. Then the Springboks destroyed an All Blacks scrum. Then they started making telling mistakes.
Raymond Rhule took the ball back into the Springbok 22 and gave to Andries Coetzee who kicked out on the full. From the line-out, the All; Blacks attacked, Jesse Kriel was offside and Beauden Barrett goaled. 3-0 after 13 minutes. There was still no sign of the impeding glory or doom that was to come.
The Springboks were penalised for being offside at a knock-on. Aaron Smith tapped, darted and kicked down into the space empty of defenders on his left. Ioane raced after the ball, gathered it and plunged over for the try in the left corner.
Barrett, whose kicking was regarded as suspect in prematch talk, goaled from touch. In the match he goaled eight of his nine kicks at goal. 10-0 after 18 minutes.
The Springboks played phases. Hougaard stepped and passed to Jantjies, who passed – and Nehe Milner-Skudder intercepted about 15 metres in side his own half. He raced away and did some clever interpassing with Barrett to bamboozle the defenders and Milner-Skudder was the one to score. 17-0 after 20 minutes.
Liam Squires, the All Black flank, left the field for a head injury assessment. Scott Barrett took his place. Squires did not return.
And Scott Barrett scored a try. Beauden Barrett kicked a long diagonal to the right. Francois Hougaard and Milner-Skudder went up for the ball. Hougaard knocked on, Milner-Skudder got possession and gave to Scott Barrett who ran round for a try which his brother converted. 24-0 after 34 minutes.
Jantjies kicked downfield, Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett countered and the ball went to Ioane who ran past four Springboks and gave to Dane Coles who gave to big Brodie Retallick who scored with Smith, Coles and Ioane unmarked next to him. 31-0, which was the half-time score.
One could pretend that the Springboks were better in the second half as they conceded only 26 points. Only 26!
Changes started happening to both teams as the All Blacks had the best attacking chances. When Jantjies tackled Smith high, the All Blacks had a five-metre line-out. They bashed and then went right where Beauden Barrett threw a long pass to Milner-Skudder who scored in the corner. This was the conversion that Beauden Barrett missed but the score was 36-0 after 53 minutes.
More players came off the bench, whither Milner-Skudder retired.
Rudy Paige tapped a penalty and was just three metres from the New Zealand goal-line when he was penalised for holding on. That was as good as it got for the Springboks.
At the other end the All Blacks attacked and only some clever bravery by Paige stopped Codie Taylor from scoring, but New Zealand had a five-metre scrum, then a penalty and then a five line-out from which Ofa Tu'ungafasi scored his first Test try. 43-0 with 16 minutes to play. That was a record points' difference between the two teams, beating the 42 of Durban last year.
Anton Lienert-Brown bumped Handré Pollard and plonked him on his backside as he broke. The centre gave to Lima Sopoaga who scored. 50-0 after 74 minutes.
The siren had sounded, the Springboks were penalised and New Zealand had a line-out, which they mauled and this time Taylor scored.
Man of the Match: Which of the 23 All Blacks do you want? Our choice – and it's just to propose one name – is Aaron Smith for the speed he generated for his side.
Moment of the Match: The try that started with Nehe Milner-Skudder's intercept and included his clever interpassing with Beauden Barreet.
Villain of the Match: Nobody.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Ioane, Milner-Skudder 2, S Barrett, Retallick, Tu'ungafasi, Sopoaga, Taylor
Cons: B Barrett 6
Pen: B Barrett
For South Africa: None
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squires, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)