ALBANY, September 16 – The Springboks were blown away by the All Blacks in a forgettable first half as they went down to a record 57-0 defeat in the Rugby Championship at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany.
The Boks, unbeaten in six Test matches in 2017 leading up to this match, would’ve gone into the game with some confidence, having registered their first away win in the Allister Coetzee era in Argentina last month, while they drew 23-23 against the Wallabies in Perth last week.
But they succumbed to their worst defeat in their history, with the eight-try, 57-point losing margin surpassing the 57-15 loss (42-point margin) in Durban last year.
After a few good passages of play on attack early on during Saturday’s Test, the Boks were unable to convert their pressure into points.
Some last passes didn’t go to hand inside the New Zealand half, while flyhalf Elton Jantjies missed a penalty from the 10-metre line in the eighth minute, with the ball falling short of the posts.
Malcolm Marx also had difficulty with his lineout throws, and it all set the tone for what was to come.
All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett got the ball rolling with a 14th-minute penalty, and it took just three more minutes for the home side to score their first try.
With the Kiwis winning a scrum penalty, scrumhalf Aaron Smith took a quick tap and raced away from the Bok defence, but was still able to put in a chip over the top, which was chased down by wing Rieko Ioane for a five-pointer.
Another Springbok mistake on attack saw Nehe Milner-Skudder intercept inside the All Black half, and while he sped downfield, he was looking for support and found it in the shape of Beauden Barrett, who drew in a few defenders before returning the pass to Milner-Skudder to dot down.
The Boks were up against it at 17-0 behind, and they never recovered. The All Blacks put the nail in the South African coffin six minutes before halftime as they surged into the Bok 22 before Beauden Barrett put in a perfect cross-kick that Francois Hougaard was unable to win in the air, and the ball bounced favourably for lock Scott Barrett to trot over.
The first-half bleeding didn’t stop yet, though. Ioane got the ball deep inside the All Black half and kept both Marx and Raymond Rhule guessing before going for the gap, handing-off Rhule in the process, to spark the Kiwis’ fourth try.
The ball went through a few more All Black hands before lock Brodie Retallick crossed the whitewash, and that set up a 31-0 halftime lead.
The Springboks were never going to get back into the match from there, although there was a bit more fight on defence after the break as they repelled a couple of All Black attacks inside the 22.
Coach Coetzee didn’t make any changes at halftime, and waited until the 52nd minute to bring on Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit to provide some impact.
But those replacements were unable to stop the All Blacks’ fifth try soon after coming on. Kieran Read’s team swarmed forward once more, and Beauden Barrett floated a long pass out wide for Milner-Skudder to dive into the corner to beat Courtnall Skosan’s desperate tackle.
The Boks still put together the odd attacking foray in the last quarter, but either a handling error or breakdown infringement would halt their momentum.
Replacement prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi bashed his way over in the 64th minute for the sixth All Black try, and the South Africans would’ve hoped that that was the end of it.
But the Kiwis added some late sparkle, with Anton Lienert-Brown bumping off Handré Pollard to set up the seventh try for Lima Sopoaga, while Codie Taylor rounded off a driving maul in the final moments.
Scorers: All Blacks 57 (31): Tries: Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder (2), Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Lima Sopoaga, Codie Taylor. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (7). Penalty: Barrett (1).
– African News Agency (ANA)