This was the statement performance of a world champion not ready to surrender the title. The Springboks at Twickenham were sensational in dismantling the All Blacks, and Rugby World Cup 2023 in France can’t come soon enough, writes Mark Keohane.
Never has there been a blow out against the All Blacks in rugby history. No team has sunk them quite like the Springboks did at Twickenham on Friday night. Note to the bosses at SA Rugby: Play the home matches against the All Blacks in London at Twickenham.
The Boks, on the hour, led 35-0. For those watching that hour, the only surprise was that the Boks only had 35. They could have been past 50 and New Zealand were fortunate to have the zero.
What to read to this record-breaking win?
I don’t know: Much will be said. Much will be defended. All in the name of the World Cup.
So, for the sake of right now, I am going to forget the World Cup, which starts in a fortnight and simply report on the 88 minutes I watched at Twickenham.
It was a great night for Springbok rugby. It was a great night for the Bok coaching leadership of Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber. It was a splendid night for captain Siya Kolisi, who was power personified in his 55 minutes. It was glorious for every player, every management member and every South African supporter at Twickenham and around the globe.
I had the Boks to win by double digits (10 points). They got the double digits but they did it with so much more. The final differential was 28, the biggest ever from a Bok team against the All Blacks and the biggest ever defeat by the All Blacks in their history. Ian Foster has another of those unwanted records.
When the All Blacks blitzed the Boks in Auckland a few months ago, they did it because of pace and tempo.
At Twickenham, there could be no pace or tempo because their pack got monstered from the first scrum the All Blacks chose to engage on 41 seconds.
Ordinarily, a penalty 48 metres from the opposition’s try-line would be met with a kick to the corner. The All Blacks called for a scrum, lost it to a penalty and for the next 20 minutes they defended their goalline. The only miracle was that the Boks only scored one converted try.
Bok power reduced the All Blacks to putty. Penalty followed penalty. Yellow card followed yellow card and Scott Barrett undid his entire season with stupidity to get a second yellow card and an automatic red.
The All Blacks, in the final 30 minutes, were playing the Boks with a lock pairing ranked fourth and fifth. What is scary for them is that one of these club players may actually have to start against France.
The Boks, fielding a seven forwards and one back split among the substitutes for the first time in rugby history, destroyed the All Blacks starting pack. And when the seven forward replacements were introduced as one collective, they won two scrum penalties in a two minutes.
It was just brutal and people have been criminally charged for lesser offences.
The line out was another area of delight for the Boks and disaster for the All Blacks.
The revered and potent All Blacks backs were rendered tackling spectators on a night when winger Will Jordan touched the ball for the first time in the 41st minute.
The Boks backs, playing behind a pack as powerful as the wind that blows in Fremantle and Cape Town in the early summer, purred.
Manie Libbok, at flyhalf, has played tougher touch rugby matches. Andre Esterhuizen (at inside centre) was Jonah Loma-like in his gain line success and outside of him Canan Moodie dazzled, Kurt-Lee Arendse soared, Makazoli Mapimpi stretched his legs at will and Damian Willemse attacked as if playing against tackle bags.
Faf de Klerk, at scrum half, controlled all this dominance.
Even reserve scrum half Cobus Reinach, introduced at wing, played with the authority and menace of an outside back.
The last time I saw an All Blacks team tossed around like dolls was against England at the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
In four years, very little has changed when confronted with a physical presence and forward power.
This was a special night in Springboks history. Whatever happens in the next two months, no one can ever take away this result from the Boks and the All Blacks can never get it erased.
For a rivalry, traditionally so adored but so one-sided in the professional era, it needed the Boks to do a delightful dirty on the All Blacks.
In London, they gave the most decisive and commanding Boks performance in 105 Test matches between the two teams.