The Springboks win against the All Blacks on Australia’s Gold Coast was right up there with the 2019 World Cup final win against England, writes Mark Keohane.
There was drama, quality and sporting theatre in the Springboks 31-29 victory against the All Blacks that was the equal of anything South Africans experienced when the Boks took gold at the 2019 RWC.
The Boks, earlier in the competition, had lost to the All Blacks in Pool play and a week ago, in the 100th Test between the two nations, had lost 19-17 to a 78th minute Jordie Barrett penalty. The defeat a week ago also meant the All Blacks went to the top of the world rankings and South Africa dropped to No 2.
But as the sun rose on Sunday morning, the Springboks were back on top of the world, ranked number one and doing their world champions title justice in beating the All Blacks.
It was an immense battle on the Gold Coast against an All Blacks team that in 2021 had blown away Australia on three successive occasions, hammered Argentina and put Tonga and Fiji (twice) to the sword.
The match played out in the most dramatic fashion, with the battle of the boot between Barrett and replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies. The Boks had led 25-20 after trailing 20-11 on 30 minutes, but the All Blacks, through Barrett reduced the deficit to 23-25 and then took the lead 26-25 before Jantjies’s drop goal made it 28-26 to the Boks, with just a few minutes to play.
Barrett wasn’t done and in the 78th minute he kicked another penalty to make it 29-28 and it looked like the Boks would cruelly be denied a famous victory against the All Blacks for the second successive weekend. But an incredible two minutes of injury time produced a penalty to South Africa and Jantjies calmly slotted the winning kick from right in front.
It was a wow moment for a wow match between the two best teams in the world and it concluded the Rugby Championship in the most fitting of ways.
The Boks, who had been away from home for 18 weeks, many of those weeks spent in a bio-bubble during the British & Irish Lions series and a fortnight in quarantine in Australia before playing the Wallabies and All Blacks over four successive weekends, can finally get home and get a fortnight’s rest before leaving for Europe where they will play three Tests in November, including the big one against England at Twickenham on 20th November.
It has been a marathon for Siya Kolisi and his warriors, while it has been no easier for the coaching and management staff.
The Boks finished on a high of beating the All Blacks and with a bit of luck could have finished the Rugby Championship with five wins from six, with two of the defeats against the Wallabies (28-26) and the All Blacks (19-17) coming in the final minutes of each respective Test.
It was a spectacular result, given what the Boks have had to endure in 2021 after not playing international rugby for 20 months because of Covid restrictions.
It also reaffirmed the status and standing of a squad who won the 2019 World Cup and fought magnificently to tame the Lions 2-1 in a three-Test series after losing the first Test.
The biggest prize for the Boks in 2021 was winning the Lions series, and they did this. The other objective was to get at least one win against the All Blacks, and they did this.
The defeats to Australia were humbling and lessons were taken, especially from the second defeat against Australia.
The Boks, mentally and physically in need of a rest, are in a great space and place. They are ranked one in the world and to return home back in pole position and with the All Blacks scalp is an incredible achievement.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 2, 2021
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