South Africa win 31-29 , but Lukhanyo Am magical behind-the-back offload to Sbu Nkosi worth an extra point alone

By The Guardian, News24 and IOL

Elton Jantjies kicked a penalty after the final hooter as South Africa snapped a three-match losing streak in dramatic fashion, beating New Zealand 31-29 in a thrilling final match of the Rugby Championship on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The lead changed four times in the last five frenetic minutes, but the Springboks held their nerve to deliver Jantjies the opportunity to secure a famous victory from in front of the posts.

“Thank you to the people back home for not giving up on us,” said the South Africa skipper Siya Kolisi. “We’re looking forward to coming home tomorrow.”

The All Blacks were already assured of the championship title after their victory over the Springboks last weekend, but with yesterday’s win the world champions will move back above their great rivals to top the world rankings.

The victory was a reward for the Springboks showing much more adventure, but just as much grit and physicality as they had in their previous three matches in Australia.

 

After starting well, they were forced to battle back from a 20-14 half-time deficit to take the lead in the 52nd minute when winger Makazole Mapimpi went over in the corner for the final try of the contest.

Winger Sevu Reece, No 8 Ardie Savea and scrum-half Brad Weber scored tries in the first half for New Zealand, but they had to be satisfied with three penalties in the second half that were not enough to maintain their 100% record in 2021.

Jordie Barrett kicked his third four minutes from time to give the All Blacks a 26-25 lead, but Jantjies immediately responded with a long-range drop goal to edge the Springboks back in front.

Another towering effort from the All Blacks full-back looked to have won the match with a minute remaining, especially when the South Africa restart failed to go 10 metres.

But the Springboks would not be denied, and Duane Vermeulen came up with a crucial turnover in the final seconds.

Frans Steyn boomed the ball into touch and the Springboks line-out did its job before relentless pressure in the middle of the pitch resulted in a penalty call against New Zealand for offside.

The victory snapped a 10-match winning streak for the All Blacks going back to last year and should do much to ease the pressure on the South Africans after they were pilloried for back-to-back losses to Australia.

 

 

The Wallabies will finish second in the championship after an earlier 32-17 win over Argentina at the same Robina Stadium with South Africa third and the winless Pumas bottom.

Elton Jantjies was the Springboks’ hero as his three vital interventions secured his side an epic, last-gasp 31-29 victory over the All Blacks at the Cbus Stadium on the Gold Coast yesterday.

Indeed, South Africa’s frustrating habit of making crucial errors at the most inopportune times seemed to have secured the New Zealanders another great escape when Jordie Barrett – their hero the previous week – squeezed a 78th minute penalty over after Franco Mostert failed to release from the tackle he made after the Kiwis caught the Boks with another short kick-off down the middle.

But their luck was about to turn.

Despite securing possession and seemingly on their way to making things safe, the All Blacks’ breakdown fell prey to the wily Duane Vermeulen, who showcased his almost peerless poaching skills with a vital steal.

The Boks had Frans Steyn on the field to attempt the penalty from about 55m out, but decided to go for touch.

A maul from the line-out stuttered initially before the forwards got momentum once a few Kiwi defenders broke off, allowing South Africa to patiently make their way to within 10m in front of their posts.

And, for once, the All Black defence was too overeager, straying off-side and handing Jantjies the opportunity to send local rugby fans into delirium.

It was no less than the Boks deserved as they produced their best performance by some distance in this season’s Rugby Championship campaign, particularly in producing a second-half showing that was notable for its focus and composure.

South Africa also couldn’t be accused of over-employing their much-maligned kicking game as they actively varied their attacking play and, when they did go with the boot, the majority of those hoists were accurate.

They started superbly, crossing the line in the sixth minute when Lukhanyo Am produced an outrageous, no-look backwards pass out of his left-hand after All Black hooker Codie Taylor knocked back a turnover, allowing Nkosi space to launch a well-timed pass for Damian de Allende to score.

 

 

 

 

Yet for the rest of the half, it seemed as if South Africa’s best efforts would go unrewarded as  the Kiwis relied on their ruthless counter-attacking skills and uncanny ability to score points from the most limited of opportunities to stay ahead.

The Springboks could rightly be criticised for their waywardness for most of the first half, with Willie le Roux in particular experiencing a nightmare at fullback.

It was his botched catch from a kick-off that led to Sevu Reece’s slick opener for the Kiwis after Beauden Barrett’s cross-kick, while he was also at fault in missing one of four tackles in the lead up to Ardie Savea’s try.

He wasn’t the only culprit.

Bongi Mbonambi made a storming charge for the line in the second quarter that really should’ve translated into a five-pointer, only for him to drop the ball inches from the line and Eben Etzebeth’s drop at the front of a defensive line-out allowed Kiwi halfback Brad Weber to canter over for an opportunistic score.

Not to be denied though, the Boks emerged energised after the turnaround, squeezing their opponents with typically robust defence and some outstanding counter-rucking, headed by a superb Siya Kolisi, who went off in the 60th minute after a blow to the neck and head.

His absence seemed to have negated the Boks’ ability to communicate effectively with referee Matthew Carley, who abruptly started to keep the All Blacks in the game with some soft calls.

There was no better instance of that than De Allende being penalised for an attempted intercept.

Yes, the imposing midfielder only went in with one hand and probably wouldn’t have gathered it anyway, but for Carley to officially explain to “go in with both hands” was patently bewildering.

Nonetheless, it wouldn’t matter.

Rather, the Boks could rejoice in the impact of their substitutes.

Steven Kitshoff scrummed superbly and stole a crucial New Zealand attacking line-out; Malcolm Marx was effervescent as breakdown hound and Frans Steyn’s long-range kicking game after he replaced Le Roux at half-time was important.

 

 

 

 

Springbok player ratings: Lukhanyo Am magic, Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn show their class

Phew! The Springboks ended their three-match losing streak with a blood-and-guts 31-29 victory over the All Blacks at the Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast yesterday.

Elton Jantjies booted over the winning penalty with the last action of the match, and it was a deserved triumph as the Boks adopted a much more refreshing approach on attack, and produced the necessary fighting spirit in defence.

Willie le Roux: 2

A nightmare evening for the Bok fullback. Unforgivable dropped ball from a kickoff just after Handre Pollard converted a penalty, which led to a try to Sevu Reece. Another poor tackle attempt later on Rieko Ioane, and Ardie Savea scored. Took wrong kicking options on attack too, and was replaced at halftime by Frans Steyn.

Sbu Nkosi: 6

Did superbly well to draw the last defender and put Damian de Allende over in the corner. Chased the kickoffs and box-kicks with his usual energy, although didn’t get many chances to carry the ball in space.

Incredible start with a magical behind-the-back offload to Sbu Nkosi that led to Damian de Allende’s try – which is worth an extra point alone! Used some classy footwork to unsettle the defence, and tried to keep the ball alive. Strong defensive performance as well.

 

 

Damian de Allende: 6

Makazole Mapimpi: 7

Finally broke his try-scoring duck against New Zealand, with his 17th touchdown in 22 Tests. Contested the high-ball, and did well to retain possession despite having a few defenders on him at times.

Handre Pollard: 5

Still not firing on all cylinders. Missed the conversion for Nkosi’s try, although booted his penalties through the posts. Tried hard to bring his outside backs into play a bit more, but not enough of a threat as a ball-carrier himself. All Blacks also found some space around his defensive channel.

Faf de Klerk: 6

Was booed for kicking the ball straight down the pitch when the Boks had a chance to counter-attack, and again put up a box-kick into the New Zealand 22. But certainly played with more speed and looked for Bok runners on attack outside the first two channels.

Duane Vermeulen: 6

Still not as influential as he usually is after recovering from injury, but was a bit more involved this time. Took most of the high-balls and kickoffs that came his way, won the crucial breakdown penalty in the final minute, and made his fair share of tackles – although he missed one on Beauden Barrett that led to Ardie Savea’s try.

Kwagga Smith: 7

 

 

Had one of his best Tests. Showed his sevens skills by evading tacklers at close quarters with fancy footwork, and chased down the All Blacks runners all night long.

Siya Kolisi: 7

Won a terrific breakdown steal penalty, and again got stuck into the All Blacks with energetic tackles. Was a busy ball-carrier too, but had to go off in the second half after getting a knee to his neck from Brodie Retallick.

Lood de Jager: 6

Run the Bok lineout with his usual aplomb, although there were a couple of overthrows. Ran hard up the middle, and manned the front-line in defence too.

Eben Etzebeth: 8

Never stopped going in the physical stakes. Punched the ball up the middle, contested up-and-unders and the All Black lineouts… the list goes on. Had more of an impact than his great rival, Brodie Retallick.

Trevor Nyakane: 7

Was a strong ball-carrier in the first half, almost always getting over the advantage line, and made some solid tackles around the fringes. Was surprisingly replaced just before halftime.

Bongi Mbonambi: 8

Was in an angry mood, and took out his frustration on the All Blacks with a typically belligerent display. One outstanding run saw him place the ball just short of the line, and he controlled possession well at the back of the maul. A couple of lineout overthrows, though.

 

 

 

Ox Nche: 6

Made a couple of good carries in midfield, and was solid in the scrums and in defence.

Substitutes:

Malcolm Marx: 6

Came on with the rest of the reserve front row before halftime, and kept up the heat on the All Blacks in the scrums.

Steven Kitshoff: 7

Apart from his powerful scrumming, Kitshoff carried the ball with verve into the All Black defence, and was a strong defensive pillar at close quarters.

Vincent Koch: 6

Was unable to control a superb offload from Kwagga Smith in broken play, but was part of a strong scrumming effort from the ‘Bomb Squad’ front row.

Franco Mostert: 6

Put his body on the line as usual, high work-rate.

Jasper Wiese: 5

Didn’t have much chance to run at the All Blacks, tried to get physical with the Kiwis in the last quarter.

Herschel Jantjies: 6

 

 

Made one dart soon after coming on for Faf de Klerk, but the referee awarded a breakdown penalty to the All Blacks.

Elton Jantjies: 8

Showed his class with a clever touch that led to Makazole Mapimpi’s try, as he delayed his pass just enough to draw the last defender, and kicked an amazing drop goal to put the Boks into the lead with a few minutes left, before landing the winning three-pointer.

Frans Steyn: 8

Came on at halftime for Willie le Roux at fullback, and made a telling impact with his big kicks downfield and brought the necessary solidity at the back. Produced some hefty touch-finders – including the late penalty to put the Boks back on attack inside the All Black 22, which led to the victorious Jantjies penalty.

 

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