In the final round of the Rugby Championship, The Springboks have beaten the All Blacks 31 -29 in an incredible performance, pulling off a come from behind win against their biggest rival, for the first time since 1998. Whilst many were predicting a run away All Blacks victory, the Kiwis will have to wait almost a full year before they get the chance to tackle the World Champions again and attempt to set the record straight.
A shaky first half from the kicking tee by Handre Pollard and the inability to field the high ball from Willie Le Roux had South Africans scratching their heads. Followed by the 38th minute substitution of the entire front row and one may have thought Jacques Nienaber had lost it completely. This was not the case though, and whilst injury may have forced his hand in certain situations, the emptying of the bench provided the Boks with the firepower they needed to win.
The sight of Frans Steyn with his bib off in the change room at half time allowed South Africans to breathe a sigh of relief and he was inserted in at fullback for the entire second half. Steyn showed his incredible value as a player and he shored up the last line of defense immediately. Add to this his powerful boot and he had the All Blacks back pedaling. Unfortunately for Willie Le Roux, this may be the last time he is seen in the green and gold after a string of sub par performances.
The Springboks took control in the 2nd half and clawed their way back into the lead from a 9 point deficit, simultaneously managing to keep the All Blacks scoreless past the 60 minute mark. Then an absurd call from the referee gave Jordie Barrett the opportunity to slot three points after he deemed Frans Steyn's attempted charge down to be reckless. The game was on a knifes edge from that moment onwards.
A head knock to Sbu Nkosi prompted a backline reshuffle with Am moving to the wing, Pollard to center and Elton on at flyhalf. Jantjies was quick to prove his critics wrong as he took control of the game, showed great accuracy with the ball in hand and was steady with the boot. His drop goal and conversion to win the test, will have etched his name into the history book and with Pollard struggling so much, maybe he deserves a better look in for the end of year tour.
Lukhanyo Am showed that the Springboks posses real quality with what must be the filthiest offload of the year so far. His slick out the back door pass to De Allende showed the Springboks were willing to throw the ball around a bit with the Boks scoring two tries to New Zealand's three. Bongi Mbonambi being denied cruelly as he grounded the ball just short after a strong charge up the middle.
The All Blacks were incredibly vocal in the week, through captain Ardie Savea about the Boks slowing the game down through the medics, however the shoe was on the other foot tonight as the Kiwis made use of this tactic a number of times when they were on the back foot, with Jordie Barrett being especially lucky after taking ages to make his kicks. The Springboks have dampened any hope they had of a clean sweep year and the New Zealanders will need to work on their ball retention ahead of the upcoming fixtures.
All being said and done, the All Blacks won the Rugby Championship, the Boks proved they can still perform at the top level, and now Europe needs to brace for what looks to be a Southern Hemisphere onslaught on the way. A resurgent Australia, an ever powerful New Zealand and a Springbok team on the back of a massive victory will head to their shores in just over a month.
My man of the match would go to either of Frans Steyn or Elton Jantjies who both proved to be the vital cogs in the Springboks victory today.