The brilliance, the precision, the pace and the good decision-making of the All Blacks in scoring two dazzling early tries was marked … Stephen Jones, The Times

By Roger Childs

A decisive win against the old foe 

It was a very important game two months out from the World Cup. The South Africans won the Cup in 2019 so a 35-20 win over the champions was great for All Black morale. In front of a packed Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, the New Zealanders ran the ball from the start and in the first 5 minutes it was fast and furious with the locals having all the possession.

Finally after an excellent run by Will Jordan on the right flank there was a slick inside pass to Aaron Smith who scored under the posts. A few minutes later Shannon Frizell scored in the corner running over Willie Le Roux in Jonah Lomu style. After 20 minutes, with Richie Mo’unga kicking two conversions and a penalty, it was 17-0 and the shell-shocked Springboks wondered what had hit them.

Great entertainment for the crowd

After a penalty each the first half ended with the All Blacks leading 20-3. The home side has proved stronger in the scrums and ran the ball fluently from the reliable lineout takes. The second half saw a much more even contest. The South African brought on veteran hooker Malcolm Marx and he scored the visitors first try from a lineout drive in the 55th minute. Then eight minutes later Cheslin Kolbe on the right wing went over in the corner with a dramatic dive. This made it 23-15 and the All Blacks looked rattled and beatable. They had also showed some indiscipline which resulted in a number of penalties. 

However, two excellent tries in the last quarter put them back on track, one to Jordan from an excellent cross kick from Beauden Barrett and the other from a run by Ardie Savea on the blindside from the back of a scrum close to the Boks line. A quick pass to Mo’unga saw the first five score without a hand being laid in him. This try exemplified the All Blacks’ tactical approach of doing the unexpected, which is likely to continue in futire matches. Always keep your opponents guessing. The influence of former Irish coach Joe Schmidt in the All Blacks flexible style of play is very apparent.

An impressive start to the test season 

Nobody is getting too carried away with the All Blacks’ impressive win. Their next test is against the Wallabies on Saturday 29 July in Melbourne and this is the first of two matches for the Bledisloe Cup. The Australians should not be under-estimated, even they have lost their first two games in the Four Nations tournament.

The New Zealanders should win across the Tasman and then a week later under the roof at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Dunedin. However they will know that if the Wallabies can field their best possible team in the Bledisloe tests they will be dangerous.