The All Blacks finished their Rugby Championship campaign with a 100% on Saturday – but were made to work for it by a dogged South Africa.
An engrossing game in Cape Town truly sparked into life with Ryan Crotty’s try just after the half-hour mark as the visitors battled their way to a 25-24 win – but a moment of magic from Nehe Milner-Skudder almost set New Zealand up for a far more comfortable opening.
With the game scoreless and five minutes on the clock, Milner-Skudder picked the ball up from Crotty on the halfway line before embarking on a run that took him to around ten meters from the try line before he had to release it again. With South African bodies blocking his path to a simple pass, however, the winger had to improvise to get the ball to Aaron Smith – leading to a fantastic pass by Milner-Skudder from behind his back.
Unfortunately for the All Blacks, the move didn’t get the finish it deserved when Smith ran into truble before he was able to down the try.
Milner-Skudder’s day was to take a turn for the worse at half-time, as a dislocated shoulder meant that he had to replaced by David Havili. It now looks as though he will require a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he recuperates, another blow to both the player and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
By winning this match against the Springboks, New Zealand completed a clean sweep from this year’s Rugby Championship – the second year in a row that Hansen’s side have won the trophy with six wins from six.