This is bad news for South Africa because the All Blacks don’t usually play this poorly. –All Black winger Jeff Wilson

Not up to standard but they’ll take the win

By Roger Childs

With two minutes to go and down 16-17 Jordie Barrett lined up a penalty from 50m wide out and neatly slotted it for a perfect five out of five scoring kicks for the match. So the All Blacks came through for the narrow victory, even though their play was often below their usual high standard. They tried to play their open, running game, but were frustrated by the negative tactics of the Springboks. 

It is amazing that for the team that won the last World Cup and until a week ago was ranked number one on the planet, plays such boring, negative rugby. Their approach is based on:

  • the “high kick and hope” approach especially from the base of the scrum
  • bustling the opposition and forcing them into mistakes
  • milking penalties especially from scrums on their feed by wheeling or getting the front row to angle in
  • pouncing on the opposition’s mistakes
  • employing a rush defence to force passing errors in the opposition’s backline
  • walking very slowly to lineouts
  • staging injuries to get breaks for the whole team and slow down the flow of the game.

All Black errors 

There was a positive start for New Zealand with a superb mid-field run by hooker Codie Taylor who then timed his pass beautifully to winger Will Jordan for a third minute try. Jordie Barrett converted. Was this the start of another big win? Sadly no. Minutes later a well-aimed “bomb” was dropped by left winger George Bridge near the goal line and the fast following Nkosi gathered the ball and scored. It was the first of many uncharacteristic errors by the All Blacks – Bridge would spill another high kick later. Handre Pollard failed with the conversion, his only miss of the night and a crucial one.

The Springboks disrupted some of the All Blacks lineouts, and it was safest for the New Zealand hooker to throw to Blackadder at the front. In the scrums South Africa had the better of the contest but one suspects that the referee automatically gave them a penalty when they wheeled the scrum on their put in. Luke Jacobson picked at number eight couldn’t play and his extra weight was missed on the South African feeds. In the loose it was a relatively even battle but the All Blacks did give up too many turnovers.

The New Zealanders tried to play their fast, open game and there were some good breaks by Beauden Barrett and Brad Weber. Unfortunately there were some wild passes and dropped balls with the normally reliable Akiro Ioane spilling two. 

South African negativity

The Springboks employed what has become their usual boring style of rugby with endless kicking, especially from half back Faf de Klerk and fast following up. They did succeed in bustling the All Blacks and forcing them into errors and that approach plus regular accurate penalty kicks by Pollard kept them in the game. They also constantly slowed the game down, dawdling to the lineouts and arranging well timed “injury” breaks. It was apparent that overall the All Blacks were the fitter team and the referee should have tougher on the Springbok’s slowing things up.

Who deserved to win?

Both sides scored a try and four penalties, and Pollard’s missed conversion was the difference. The All Blacks made far too many mistakes, but did try and use their open style of play. They were the more dangerous on attack and were very unlucky to miss on a certain try late in the first half when with an extra man on the left flank 15 metres out from the line Nkosi deliberately knocked the ball down. 

The Springboks never looked like scoring a second try.

Given that they were well below their best, but played the more positive rugby, the All Blacks deserved their win, just!