• Perspective people, the Springboks did South Africa proud

    Perspective people, the Springboks did South Africa proud
    Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images

    The Springboks were two minutes away from the most heroic victory against an All Blacks team unbeaten in nine Tests and averaging six tries in Tests in 2021. Let’s have some perspective, writes Mark Keohane. And no, I am not celebrating losing or coming second.

    In the context of the last month, this was an heroic Springboks effort in Townsville and the fairytale would have been the one-point win when they led 17-16 as Jordie Barrett lined-up a penalty that would ultimately win the All Blacks this Centenary Test in what is rugby’s most intense rivalry.

    The All Blacks won 19-17 against a group of Springbok players, who in their previous five Tests against the All Blacks had a 24-26 Test match average score.

    I picked the Boks to win by a score and all week wrote that this Test would be that close that it would be decided by one kick.

    The All Blacks had walloped the Wallabies 57-22 and the Springboks had taken a 30-17 beating against the Wallabies and the general social media consensus was that the Boks were going to get killed and humiliated.

    Not this current group of Springboks when confronted with the All Blacks, who despite shredding every opposition defence this year could not break down the Springboks defence in the final 77 minutes of the Test.

    The All Blacks won and that is all that history will show, but the Springboks, having been in a bio-bubble for 17 weeks and coming off two defeats against the Wallabies, played their part in making the 100th Test as dramatic as purists of the 100 year rivalry could have asked for.

    Barrett misses in the 78th minute and the Boks win 17-16 and New Zealand and South African rugby supporters are feeling very differently. These are the fine margins when these two teams play and the perspective is in the analysis of two teams who but for a kick could have been winners or losers.

    Not everything New Zealand did was a triumph and not everything South Africa did was a disaster.

    This is not celebrating defeat or applauding coming second, but acknowledging the context of a Test match in which the brilliance and beauty was in the brutality of the collisions and how the two teams coped with each other’s opposing styles.

    The Springboks did not lose because of an ineffective game plan: They lost because of poor execution at the most crucial times from their halfbacks and poor decision-making in the final five minutes.

    The All Blacks, who for the first 10 minutes of the second half threatened to dominate the Test, were repelled and the momentum shifted between the 50th and 75th minutes, with the Boks looking stronger and the more likely victors, and the South African forward replacements very influential.

    The All Blacks were flustered with ball in hand and conceded turnovers 23 times. Their backs never looked like scoring in the second half and their forwards stood toe to toe with the Boks in slugging out the final 30 minutes.

    This was a heavyweight contest of contrasting styles; the best attack in the game against a team whose success at the 2019 World Cup and in winning the series against the British & Irish Lions was based on defence.

    It made for a fascinating 80 minutes and ironically it was a tackle and a turnover from the tackle that set up New Zealand’s match-winning opportunity with two minutes to play.

    Both teams can reflect on a battle that spoke to everything this rivalry has meant to both teams over the 100 years.

    They get to do it again in a week’s time, but for now it is the All Blacks who wear the the smiles in Townsville and their supporters who go to bed elated and not irritated.

    The try-scoring dazzlers of world rugby needed a penalty kick to beat the Springboks, with two minutes to play.

    For this situation to have played out, the South Africans had to have done a hell of a lot right in Townsville, which they did.

    But Test rugby is an unforgiving environment and the few small things the Springboks did wrong proved pivotal in determining the outcome.

    Respect to both teams and congratulations to the All Blacks on beating the Springboks for the 60th time in 100 Tests.

    Watch the All Blacks Haka for the 100th Test against the Springboks in Townsville

    Article written by

    Keo has written about South African and international rugby professionally for the last 25 years