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All Blacks break Bok resilience at the death

New Zealand has maintained their incredible record at Loftus Versfeld, beating South Africa 32-30 on Saturday afternoon.

A dead rubber occasion in the context of the Rugby Championship, the match was billed as an opportunity for the champions to exact revenge after the Springboks’ shock win on their own patch in Wellington three weeks ago. The manner in which they achieved it couldn’t have been more spiteful had they scripted it themselves: their winning conversion sailing over the posts moments before the hooter sounded. Rassie Erasmus will feel particularly bitter given how dominant his players were against the best team in the world for much of the 80 minutes.

Rassie’s men ruled the first half both in territory and possession — 69% — but were unable to force the ball over the line.

Running play was at a premium as both sides elected to force their kicking metres. Loftus was on it feet around the 30th as the Boks looked clear down the left but Aphiwe Dyantyi released a fraction too late as his foot strayed over the line.

And so it was one for the fly-halves. Handre Pollard giving South Africa a 6-0 lead before Beauden Barrett converted two of his own penalties. 6-6 after a tight first stanza.

It was clear from the opening kick that the tone of the second would be entire different. The Boks continued their domination and were quickly rewarded with the game’s first try. The ball was spread to Jesse Kriel on the left who fainted to his left before Sprinting through the gap tha appeared. Pollard again made no issue of his kick.

Minutes later, Siya Kolisi cycled to Damien de Allende to dot down next to the posts and put the men in green and gold in a commanding position. New Zealand briefly looked to gain the momentum that had eluded them all game after Aaron Smith sneaked through for their first try but some excellence down the right quickly squashed it.

Cheslin Kolbe looked to be ragdolled off the his attempt by the covering defence but the TMO would later prove he got the ball to the line.

The All Blacks — who had until then failed to sustain coherent and prolonged possession — decided to demonstrate why they’re world champions and overpowered the Boks replacements.

The 50 000-strong Loftus crowd had booed their every touch since the Haka but suddenly went quiet as Scott Barrett forced the ball over in the 75th-minute.

There was an ominous sense around the entire ground as to what was about to happen and sure enough Bok heart was not enough to stop Ardie Savea and the New Zealand pack. Richie Mo’unga converted to seal a brutal last-minute win.

Victory means the All Blacks keep their remarkable statistic of not losing at Loftus since readmission.

No back-to-back wins for Erasmus either but plenty to be happy about given how these fixtures went last year.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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