New Zealand 19 South Africa 17
Jordie Barrett seals victory in 78th minute
South Africa's set-piece muscle and kicking game keeps world champions in the contest
New Zealand stay at number one in rankings after last-gasp triumph
A trademark, long-range penalty from New Zealand full-back Jordie Barrett in the 78th minute consigned South Africa to a third consecutive Test defeat in Queensland.
After a blistering start, featuring tries from both sides, the 100th meeting between the All Blacks and the Springboks developed into an error-strewn yet absorbing affair with two sharply contrasting philosophies on show.
The world champions continually ruffled New Zealand, whose momentum was stunted by uncertain handling, and gradually asserted control with a familiar combination of defensive aggression, kicking and set-piece muscle.
That approach carved out a 17-16 advantage for the Springboks thanks to four Handré Pollard penalties, but 22-year-old centre Quinn Tupaea pounced over Willie le Roux to force a breakdown infringement with two minutes left.
Jordie Barrett stepped up and split the posts from around 48 metres to keep New Zealand at the top of World Rugby’s rankings.
Ardie Savea, the relieved All Blacks skipper, summed up the pervading feeling among his squad at the final whistle: “They put us under a lot of pressure,” he said. “It was messy, but that’s Test match footie.”
As widely predicted, New Zealand attempted to keep the ball in hand to challenge South Africa’s notorious rush defence with pace and width.
Their ambition was rewarded as early as the third minute. On the back of a long sequence of play punctuated by quick lineouts, hooker Codie Taylor gathered a bouncing ball and bustled past Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth into open space.
Prolific right wing Will Jordan tore up on the outside of his Crusaders colleague to take a simple pass and score his 12th Test try in his eighth All Blacks outing. However, South Africa hit back immediately as they bid to respond from back-to-back losses to Australia.
Faf de Klerk hoisted a box-kick down the centre of the field that George Bridge could not bring under control. Sbu Nkosi followed up for a simple finish.
Although Pollard could not convert, the fly-half did add two penalties to punish New Zealand – and Brodie Retallick in particular – for a curious spell of indiscipline.
Only in the final 10 minutes of the opening half did New Zealand haul back that deficit, Jordie Barrett’s pair of kicks bringing a 13-11 advantage at the break.
South Africa had expended a lot of energy, especially given they had lost Nkosi to the sin bin following what referee Luke Pearce deemed to be a deliberate knock-on.
Even so, Jacques Nienaber’s team began to squeeze in the second half. New Zealand opted to kick a series of penalties to the corner, but De Jager and Etzebeth derailed their opponents’ platform time and again.
De Klerk’s kicking caused issues among the All Blacks’ back three and Ian Foster’s team could not find fluency, spilling elementary passes in promising positions.
South Africa’s aggression at the breakdown paid off and, when the Springboks unleashed more heavy forwards from their bench, they began to dominate the set-piece exchanges.
Vincent Koch shunted South Africa to scrum dominance and Marco van Staden, who will join Leicester Tigers at the end of The Rugby Championship, injected dynamism. Etzebeth and De Jager continued to rule the lineout, South Africa’s maul proving difficult to contain.
With four minutes to go, and the Springboks 17-16 ahead, an arm-wrestle exploded into a fractured passage of end-to-end rugby.
All Blacks take the lead in the Rugby Championship as Jordie Barrett unleashes a missile from the penalty five metres in from touch! 🏉
📺Watch #NZLvRSA LIVE on Sky Sports Arenapic.twitter.com/Mj0FXkE77L
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) September 25, 2021
Brad Weber, the All Blacks’ replacement scrum-half, scampered into a gap but Van Staden charged up-field for South Africa following yet another New Zealand fumble.
Moments later, Tupaea’s opportunistic steal presented Jordie Barrett with an opportunity to take the spoils. His booming strike proved enough.
“It was an awesome, fair contest and the atmosphere was amazing,” said South Africa skipper Siya Kolisi, who personified the Springboks’ fight.
“We come from a proud country and we're never happy when we lose but I'm proud of how we stood up today.”
Analysis: Clash of style encapsulated in frantic finale
A tight, tense and often turgid contest between the two sides at the top of the World Rugby rankings was summed up in the passage leading to the decisive penalty.
It begins here, with a New Zealand lineout on the edge of South Africa’s 22. The All Blacks will look back in frustration at the number of opportunities they squandered from these positions.
Whether it was the Springboks’ robust maul defence or handling errors in midfield that stunted them, New Zealand regularly failed to launch.
In this case, Franco Mostert leaps ahead of Hoskins Sotutu to steal. Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth were also influential defenders:
A phase later, we see a familiar picture. Herschel Jantjies, who replaced Faf de Klerk, hoists to the sky. As ever, the Springboks ‘ chase is well configured.
Makazole Mapimpi leads it with Siya Kolisi, Vincent Koch, Duane Veremeulen and Vincent Koch – four robust defenders with breakdown skills – close behind:
South Africa kicked 38 times, accumulating just 65 passes. New Zealand kicked 18 times and amassed 141 passes. Those numbers sum up the difference in approach.
A midfield bomb from De Klerk led to Sbu Nkosi’s try, with the scrum-half often kicking well inside New Zealand’s half.
Here, Mapimpi’s commitment to the aerial duel is total. Jordie Barrett initially appears to have caught the ball…
….but spills as Koch, Vermeulen and Kolisi arrive in shot:
It is Mapimpi himself that regathers possession:
And, from the next phase, South Africa clear through Handré Pollard. Track Quinn Tupaea:
Beauden Barrett initiates the counter, stepping past Nkosi and feeding Rieko Ioane. However, Nkosi recovers to block another inside pass intended for Ethan Blackadder.
From there, the ball bobbles to Willie le Roux. But Blackadder, a late replacement for Luke Jacobson in New Zealand’s starting line-up, fells the full-back. Tupaea is on the spot with a jackal that just about beats the formation of a ruck:
In a round-about way, New Zealand are rewarded for an attempt to keep the ball in hand. But the sequence also demonstrates their vulnerability in the set-piece and kicking exchanges, as well as some inaccuracy with their passing in the face of South Africa’s fierce defence.
We are the lucky ones. We get to watch these teams lock horns again next weekend after dusting themselves down and examining where they could improve. When it comes to tactics, who will stick and who will twist?
New Zealand captain Ardie Savea
"They put us under a lot of pressure with their box-kicks and their chase line. It was messy, but that's Test match footy."
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi
"It was tough, very fast. It was an awesome, fair contest and the atmosphere was amazing."
"We come from a proud country and we're never happy when we lose but I'm proud of how we stood up today."
Full-time, New Zealand 19 South Africa 17!
That's it! Franco Mostert spills in midfield and New Zealand have won. Tough on South Africa, who scrapped and spoiled and made lie difficult for the All Blacks. But it was not enough.
Penalty, Jordie Barrett! New Zealand 19 South Africa 17, 79 minutes
One minute left and South Africa persist with kick-pressure. Jordie Barrett surges through bodies and climbs to gather before Beauden Barrett clears. Back come the Springboks...
Penalty, Jordie Barrett! New Zealand 19 South Africa 17, 78 minutes
What a kick. If that's enough to win the 100th Test between these nations, it's a worthy strike.
Barrett splits the posts from about 48 metres on the angle.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 76 minutes
Another lineout steal from South Africa! They've squeezed superbly.
But Quinn Tupaea forces a breakdown penalty over the top of Willie le Roux... Jordie Barrett calls for the tee!
New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 75 minutes
Wow. A breathless passage of broken-field running, featuring turnovers from both sides and a couple of charges from Marco van Staden ends with Hoskins Sotutu chipping down the touchline.
Le Roux covers across and hacks into touch. Five minutes to go. We have a blockbuster finish ahead after a largely turgid second half.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 70 minutes
New Zealand just cannot get going. There's another spill in midfield from first phase. The water-carriers are on. Ten minutes left and the Springboks remain in front.
Now they cause New Zealand's scrum to buckle! Vincent Koch gets the back-slaps.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 69 minutes
Penalty tennis. Malcolm Marx chases De Klerk's kick from an offside position.
South Africa's maul is looking ominous, by the way.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 68 minutes
Mistake from McKenzie. He clatters into De Jager from the restart and it's a penalty to South Africa.
Penalty, Handré Pollard! New Zealand 16 South Africa 17, 67 minutes
Pollard slots his fourth penalty.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 14, 65 minutes
Great touch-finder from Pollard. He has not been perfect tonight, but that kick sweeps South Africa down into the New Zealand 22.
The lineout drive earns a penalty and New Zealand were offside in midfield anyway. The Springboks are going to edge back in front.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 14, 64 minutes
Another poor pass, this time from TJ Perenara after New Zealand's maul makes ground. David Havili spills.
The benches are gradually being emptied now. Codie Taylor and Frans Malherbe are the latest to make way, being replaced by Samisoni Taukei'aho and Vincent Koch respectively.
South Africa immediately muscle a scrum penalty.
New Zealand 16 South Africa 14, 61 minutes
Le Roux strikes a high ball and chase it down before colliding with Beauden Barrett. It's a penalty to New Zealand as the latter catches and comes crashing to the ground.
Duane Veremeulen is not pleased, but Luke Pearce waves him away.
Penalty, Jordie Barrett! New Zealand 16 South Africa 14, 60 minutes
New Zealand are back in front.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 14, 58 minutes
Damian McKenzie is on for New Zealand with Will Jordan making way and, presumably, Jordie Barrett shifting to the right wing.
New Zealand inject some pace and it's enough to earn a penalty. Jordie Barrett calls for the tee.
Penalty, Handré Pollard! New Zealand 13 South Africa 14, 57 minutes
He does. South Africa in front as we reach the final quarter with tension setting in.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 56 minutes
South Africa string together a handful of phases and get their reward - a midfield penalty after a shove off the ball from New Zealand. Pollard should be able to edge his team ahead...
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 53 minutes
Some uncharacteristically errant passing from New Zealand is keeping South Africa in this game. Rieko Ioane's spinning offload releases Jordan but a pass intended for Bridge is intercepted by Le Roux.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 52 minutes
Jordan darts past a slipping Pollard and New Zealand head wide from the next phase, George Bridge making ground. Smith is across to jackal... but we're coming all the way back for an All Blacks scrum penalty. That was a long advantage.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 50 minutes
Errors are mounting for both teams now. Damian de Allende steps inside and makes ground from the scrum but De Klerk snipes and throws a pass that evades Nkosi and bobbles into touch.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 48 minutes
Beauden Barrett rushes up and nearly picks off Pollard's pass. De Klerk then goes to the air with Etzebeth chasing and causing havoc in the New Zealand 22.
There is a let-off after Smith tackles Laulala high. However, Jordie Barrett then knocks on in midfield after the ensuing All Blacks lineout.
What a shot this is. Faf de Klerk bids to chop down Nepo Laulala:
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 45 minutes
De Klerk clears to touch and Nkosi returns. South Africa are back up to 15 men as there is another lineout steal from De Jager. Can the Springboks find a foothold in this second half?
They've got an offside penalty on their 10-metre line now. Joe Moody was offside.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 43 minutes
De Jager is collard for creeping through the line of the lineout this time.
New Zealand want this try. They are continually turning down shots at goal. Beaude Barrett kicks them to the corner again... but Ardie Savea is eventually bundled into touch.
Phenomenal maul defence from South Africa.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 42 minutes
New Zealand's maul earns some ground after slipping around South Africa's counter-drive.
Havili carries in midfield and the Springboks are penalised for failing to roll away. New Zealand go to the corner... put Lood de Jager steals!
And then there is another fumble after Akira Ioane stormed at the try-line after gobbling up a loose ball.
We're underway again and TJ Perenara attempts a snipe down the short side. That's been a feature of New Zealand's performance, attacking from their own 22.
The All Blacks win a penalty after kicking down to Duane Vermeulen. Two minutes left on the Nkosi yellow card.
New Zealand have completed 77 passes in that first half, kicking 10 times.
South Africa have completed 18 passes, kicking 20 times.
It's been as intriguing as we had hoped.
As expected, New Zealand are trying to keep pace in the game and are attempting to stretch South Africa with their phase-play.
South Africa have targeted the All Blacks' breakdown and stunted their opponents' driving maul as well.
Half-time | New Zealand 13 South Africa 11
Akira Ioane has not managed to impose himself on this one so far and his error brings a scrum to South Africa.
Le Roux hoists a high ball that is taken too easily by Jordie Barrett. New Zealand attempt to stretch the Springboks but Retallick is picked up for a forward pass and that's half-time.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 39 minutes
Etzebeth steals. Boy is he in good form. De Klerk, blood streaming down his face, clears.
New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 37 minutes
South Africa attempt to maul but Scott Barrett sacks Lood de Jager.
Seven minutes left on this yellow card and New Zealand will be after a chance to challenge South Africa.
They have a penalty. Smith is penalised at the breakdown. Beauden Barrett hits touch. A pivotal passage is coming up.
Penalty, Jordie Barrett! New Zealand 13 South Africa 11, 35 minutes
New Zealand have the lead for the first time in about half an hour. Easy kick for Barrett.
Yellow card, Sbu Nkosi!
Hard to argue with that. Luke Pearce has a look at a couple of replays and determines that it was a deliberate knock-on, but that he could not be certain that New Zealand would have scored.
They had an overlap, but Smith and Kolisi were covering across.
New Zealand 10 South Africa 11, 33 minutes
Big decision coming. Nkosi stormed in and knocked the ball on. Was that deliberate?
New Zealand 10 South Africa 11, 33 minutes
The All Blacks head to their right this time, with Havili flipping an offload back inside to Jordie Barrett.
The speed of the breakdown is too much for South Africa, who are caught offside. New Zealand go to touch and try a shift-drive.
Eben Etzebeth reads it, but knocks on. Scrum to the All Blacks about 10 metres about 15 metres in from their right-hand touchline.
New Zealand 10 South Africa 11, 31 minutes
Another overhit from Pollard, this time from the restart. The last one was damaging, and New Zealand will have another scrum put-in on halfway.
Penalty, Jordie Barrett! New Zealand 10 South Africa 11, 30 minutes
Half an hour gone and it is a one-point game.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 29 minutes
New Zealand are getting slicker. They make ground from a midfield scrum through David Havili, Rieko Ioane and George Bridge before bouncing back towards their right.
Retallick throws a dummy and breaches the 22 and then Beauden Barrett chips across to his brother Jordie. The attack fizzles out from there but we will come back for a penalty.
Selection of Kwagga Smith paying off so far
SA have smelt blood at ABs attacking breakdown #NZLvRSA100
— Eoin Toolan (@Toolan82) September 25, 2021
Faf de Klerk is edging the tussle of the scrum-halves so far.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 26 minutes
Both teams are defending the maul well, for now. As expected, the aerial exchanges are proving to be another pivotal battleground.
Pollard attempts to slide a kick in behind New Zealand from the 10-metre line but it's overcooked and the ball bounces dead.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 24 minutes
The All Blacks continue to exert pressure. They'll have a lineout on the South Africa 22 after Jordie Barrett was taken out in the air.
No, South Africa spoil again. David Havili was uncertain on the carry and Kwagga Smith forced the breakdown steal. Now there's another error under the high ball from George Bridge.
The Springboks have put the last two weeks behind them.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 22 minutes
Big moment. Two Barrett brothers, Jordie and Scott, cut open South Africa after the former rises to take a high ball and offloads to the latter.
Taylor has another run but a messy ruck results inside South Africa's 22 and Perenara spills.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 20 minutes
He has had a poor start, but that is an important lineout steal from Brodie Retallick.
New Zealand attempt to go wide from inside their own 22 but clear after Faf de Klerk's tackle on Scott Barrett.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 18 minutes
A scrum collapses and it is deemed to be the fault of New Zealand loosehead prop Joe Moody. Frans Malherbe wins the penalty for South Africa, who will have a lineout just outside the opposition 22.
A break here as physios tend to injured players. Here is Will Jordan's try...
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP LIVE🏉
TRY to the All Blacks as winger Will Jordan canters through to score after a great break from hooker Codie Taylor.
📺WATCH ON: Sky Sports Arena
— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) September 25, 2021
...and this is how South Africa hit back through Sbu Nkosi:
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP LIVE🏉
Springboks hit right back through Sbu Nkosi as he pounces after George Bridge couldn't catch a high ball from Faf de Klerk.
📺WATCH ON: Sky Sports Arena
— Sky Sports Rugby Union (@SkySportsRugby) September 25, 2021
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 17 minutes
Ethan Blackadder is the target but that is superb defence from South Africa. First the drive is stopped and then Kolisi launches into a counter-drive that earns a turnover after Damian de Allende threatened the ball.
South Africa's skipper has started ferociously.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 16 minutes
Will Jordan has his hands on the ball again, this time directly from a lineout. Kolisi makes a nuisance of himself over the ball, which was legal... but Pollard - the tackler - is pinged for failing to roll away.
Beauden Barrett hits the corner, despite the efforts of Makazole Mapimpi on the touchline, and Etzebeth gets his counter-drive wrong. New Zealand go to the corner again...
Penalty, Handré Pollard! New Zealand 7 South Africa 11, 13 minutes
No mistake. The lead grows.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 8, 12 minutes
The All Blacks probe with some neat-looking phase-play and Ardie Savea trucks through a tackle in midfield... but Retallick is penalised again!
Pearce picks up an overzealous clear-out and Pollard will call for his tee from about 47 metres out.
Penalty, Handré Pollard! New Zealand 7 South Africa 8, 11 minutes
Pollard punishes a string of inaccuracies from New Zealand. South Africa lead.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 5, 8 minutes
New Zealand squander good field position. It's Vermeulen who is over the ball from first phase, I think, and South Africa are awarded a penalty.
The All Blacks then cough up a free-kick from the ensuing lineout... and then Brodie Retallick is penalised for obstructing Eben Etzebeth after Pollard hits a high ball.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 5, 7 minutes
Good breakdown pressure from Ethan Blackadder from the restart. He forces a turnover. It'll be New Zealand's put-in to the first scrum of the game - always an interesting subplot.
Try, Sbu Nkosi! New Zealand 7 South Africa 5, 6 minutes
The world champions hit back immediately!
We spoke about a clash of styles, and that is a contrasting try. Siya Kolisi carries into midfield from the lineout and Faf de Klerk smashes a box-kick directly down the middle.
Bridge fumbles under very little pressure and Nkosi scoops up to score a simple try. Pollard cannot convert.
New Zealand 7 South Africa 0, 5 minutes
Its a handy box-kick from Perenara from the restart. George Bridge catches it but falls out of play so South Africa have the lineout.
Try, Will Jordan! New Zealand 7 South Africa 0, 3 minutes
Quick throws from New Zealand keep the ball in play for over two minutes and eventually the All Blacks' faith in their phase-play pays dividends.
It is hooker Codie Taylor that makes the break from his own half and Jordan, just 23, is on the shoulder of his Crusaders colleague. He takes a simple pass and scorches past Willie le Roux.
Jordie Barrett converts. What a start.
Beauden Barrett gets us going and it's a furious start. Duane Vermeulen gathers the kick and is met by Brodie Retallick and Nepo Laulala.
Faf de Klerk hoists a high ball, which is batted back by Jordie Barrett and allows New Zealand to counter.
Man in the middle
Luke Pearce is refereeing today. He has been impressive recently.
After South Africa's anthem, and then New Zealand's, the latter gather in the centre of the field with Ardie Savea at the front of an arrowhead formation, to perform the haka.
Scrum-half TJ Perenara leads a Kapa o Pango, the more modern version unique to the All Blacks. Here we go.
Waka Nathan remembered
A moment's silence to remember All Black number 627, who died yesterday.
It's time for the anthems. Trevot Nyakane, who smashed up the Lions scrum, leads out South Africa on the occasion of his 50th cap.
The Springboks follow him, and New Zealand are next. It's a neutral venue, but there is some volume here. Great stuff.
"We've talked about meeting fire with fire"
Very interesting comments from injured All Blacks flanker Dalton Papali'i on the Stan Sport coverage. New Zealand are keen to stand up to South Africa... you can be sure that they'll be moving to ball a great deal, too, though.
Fans filing in
Twenty minutes until kick-off
Nearly there. Let Austin Healey tell you about the clash of styles that awaits:
South Africa are renowned for being physical, and Eben Etzebeth embodies that. He will come up against Brodie Retallick again on Saturday. If Retallick was South African, he would be a bruiser. And Retallick is physical, but he still runs around to hit rucks to create fast ball. His mind isn't on trapping players in the ruck to win penalties. It's about creating quick ball for the half-backs before getting to the next ruck - and that is what forwards are supposed to do. Produce quick ball for the backs, and the backs attack, not kick.
You can't pin all the blame on the Springbok forwards by the way, because the backs are still kicking the ball away. Faf de Klerk is one of the best scrum-halves in the world, and can play both styles. Why doesn't he play the more attacking style everyone wants him to?
If Handré Pollard lands seven points tonight - pretty likely you would think - he will go past Percy Montgomery to the top of the list of South Africa's heaviest points-scorers against New Zealand.
Beauden Barrett has 171, putting him in third place for the All Blacks in this fixture behind Andrew Mehrtens (209) and Dan Carter (221).
Revisiting the last meeting
It is over two years now since a sultry night in Yokohama when New Zealand's attack blitzed the Springboks. Here is an article looking back on the All Blacks' performance that evening.
Of course, South Africa would have the last laugh at the tournament.
New Zealand to kick-off
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 25, 2021
Players and coaches at the ground
Around 40 minutes to kick-off, now. Here's Ian Foster surveying the pitch:
And here is Jacques Nienaber taking time out with a drink. It goes without saying that he will be desperate not to witness a third straight loss:
Make a cup of tea and enjoy
A lovely feature, this:
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 25, 2021
There is some late team news to bring you ahead of kick-off. Luke Jacobson has pulled out, so Ardie Savea has switched to number eight for New Zealand with Ethan Blackadder coming into the starting back row and Hoskins Sotutu joining the replacements. That leaves the All Blacks line-up like this:
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara; 1 Joe Moody, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Nepo Laulala, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Scott Barrett, 6 Akira Ioane, 7 Ethan Blackadder, 8 Ardie Savea (captain).
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
Meanwhile, the Springboks have opted for Kwagga Smith as Lood de Jager returns at lock:
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
Here we go
Hello and welcome to Telegraph Sport’s live text commentary of a pretty special occasion as Townsville hosts the 100th Test between New Zealand and South Africa. W
e are not out there in Queensland, sadly, but will be bringing you the twists and turns of what promises to be a truly absorbing episode of the preeminent rivalry in southern hemisphere rugby union – if not the world.
This contest has been dubbed by many as a battle for the soul of the 15-a-side game. It certainly promises a clash of contrasting philosophies.
South Africa, the reigning world champions and conquerors of the British and Irish Lions earlier this year, are masters of squeezing opponents with set-piece muscle, suffocating defence and kicking.
Opposite them are the All Blacks, proud of their ability to shift the ball into space as they attack intuitively. Sages say boxing matches are made by the respective styles of those in the ring. Rugby union is no different.
The recent history of these encounters makes this an even more exciting prospect. Since Rassie Erasmus took over from Allister Coetzee, who presided over a gruesome 57-0 defeat by the All Blacks in October 2017, there have been four matches between South Africa and New Zealand.
In September 2018, the Springboks stormed Wellington to in 36-34. The next month at Loftus Versfeld, Richie Mo’unga inspired a 32-30 comeback for the All Blacks.
On the eve of Rugby World Cup 2019, the pair played out a 16-16 draw before their group encounter in Japan. That evening in Yokohama, New Zealand prevailed 23-13 – thanks largely to a two-try blitz just before half-time.
Ardie Savea, who has captained his country for the Rugby Championship in the absence of Sam Cane, was phenomenal two years ago.
It is just a shame that COVID-19 has kept apart New Zealand and South Africa since. That changes now. Kick-off is in around 50 minutes.