New Zealand 23
South Africa 13
It was touted as the biggest and best fixture of the group stages of the Rugby World Cup and the meeting of New Zealand and South Africa didn’t disappoint.
Rassie Erasmus’ side brought their ferocious intensity from the Rugby Championship straight into this game in Yokohama and put the All Blacks to the pin of their collar in the opening stages of the game. However, in the closing 20 minutes of the first half, Steve Hansen’s side proved just why they are reigning world champions as Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett orchestrated an incredible period with tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett.
South Africa turned once more on the style in the second half to set up a tense finish but, ultimately, it was their ill-discipline that saw New Zealand take the early advantage in Pool B.
A monstrous kick from Handre Pollard opened the scoring for a lively Springboks side after just one minute. South Africa piled the pressure on the All Blacks in the early stages and their lightening line speed forced Hansen’s side into a number of errors.
The majority of first-half play was inside the New Zealand half as South Africa repeatedly went on the attack. Willie Le Roux kicked a beautiful grubber kick through which was gathered and touched down by Mo’unga. Thanks to some clever play by Faf de Klerk, Jerome Garces brought play back for an offside offence but Pollard surprisingly missed the relatively straightforward kick at goal.
Despite all their pressure, it was New Zealand who registered the next score of the game. A rare mistake from de Klerk allowed Mo’unga to kick through and race towards the post. Makazole Mapimpi was penalised for illegally holding him up and the fly-half levelled the game.
That score shocked the All Blacks into life and within two minutes, they took the lead. Brilliant play from Sevu Reece, Aaron Smith and Julian Savea allowed Beauden Barrett to set up George Bridge for the game’s first try. With Barrett pulling the strings at full-back, the South African defence was rattled when the first extended period of pressure was placed upon them and that led to New Zealand’s second.
Pollard failed to gather a high ball, allowing the All Blacks to gather possession and move the ball out wide. Anton Lienert-Brown made a searing run through the middle and Scott Barrett took the pass and strolled across the try line to extend their lead to 17-3.
27: TRY New Zealand.
Just like that the All Blacks are in control. Devastating five minutes from the World Champions.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) September 21, 2019
Having recovered from that explosive period, South Africa began to settle into the game once again and they almost forced an interception which would have led to a try. However, it resulted in a New Zealand scrum. Hansen’s side spread the ball wide and were awarded another penalty at the breakdown. Fortunately for the Springboks, Mo’unga couldn’t convert and the gap was left at 14 points at the break.
South Africa were far from finished and they began the second-half in style. A sensational run from Cheslin Kolbe down the touchline lit up the International Stadium in Yokohama and excellent covering defence from the All Blacks prevented him from finishing the try. However, Pieter-Steph du Toit spotted a gap a few phases later and the flanker touched down for his side’s first while Pollard added the conversion.
You couldn’t take your eyes off this game for a second. A searing break from de Klerk almost set up another score moments later but when the ball found its way to Kolbe on the wing, he was well marshalled. The All Blacks turned over possession and Barrett almost converted an excellent kick and chase attempt. The game had every bit of skill you would expect from two of the world’s best sides and Pollard confirmed that in the 60th minute when he slotted over an effortless drop goal to reduce the gap to just four points.
As the game ticked into the final quarter, the tension inside the stadium became palpable, both in the stands and on the field. Once again, the Springbok’s discipline worked against them and they were penalised in the scrum, allowing Mo’unga to slot the difficult effort and extend their lead back to seven points.
That gap was widened once again when Barrett stepped up to nail another penalty and there was further woe for Erasmus’ side as du Toit required lengthy treatment, though he carried on. The Springboks didn’t know when they were beaten and Kolbe once again ripped the New Zealand defence apart before he was eventually brought to ground, allowing the All Blacks to hold on for the nervy win.
New Zealand: B. Barrett, Reece, Liernert-Brown, Crotty, Bridge, Mo’unga, A. Smith, Moody, Coles, Laulala, Whitelock, S. Barrett, Savea, Cane, Read.
Replacements: Taylor, Tu’ungafasi, Taavao-Matau, Tuipulotu, Frizzel, Perenara, Williams, B. Smith.
South Africa: Le Roux, Kolbe, Am, de Allende, Mapimpi, Pollard, de Klerk, Kitshoff, Marx, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi, Du Toit, Vermeulen.
Replacements: Mbonambi, Mtawarira, Nyakane, Snyman, Louw, H. Jantjies, Steyn, Kriel.