Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, attributed the Springboks’ nail-biting 16-16 draw against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday evening (NZ time) to a heavy stroke of luck.
Replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scored the match-saving try on fulltime, which Handré Pollard converted, to tie the game at 16-16 after the All Blacks had managed to break the Springboks’ tight defensive grip in the second half.
“To play the No 1 team in the world and be lucky at the end there, it was almost like last year,” Erasmus said after the second round Castle Lager Rugby Championship match.
“Right at the end we could have lost it and we managed to draw the game, and Handré could have missed that last kick so we could have lost that game.
“To come away with a draw, I guess we’re satisfied with that. The first 35 minutes we played very well while they totally dominated the second half. So fairly lucky, in a big way,” said Erasmus.
The Springboks started impressively, especially in defence, and were unlucky to go into the halftime break 7-6 behind after they had dominated territory and possession.
A turnover in midfield, just inside the All Black half, opened up an opportunity for fullback Beauden Barrett to outflank the Springbok defence and turn a pass back infield for centre Jack Goodhue to sprint in from 20 metres.
Barrett, who had earlier missed a penalty from the same position, nailed the conversion to give the All Blacks an unlikely, 7-6 lead.
There were however positives to take from another massively tough tussle with the arch rivals, according to Erasmus.
“We certainly take a lot of positives out of this because they are the world’s No 1 team, they’re the benchmark and we all strive to be where they are.”
The Bok mentor was frustrated that his team did not collect more reward for their early efforts, when they were clearly dominant.
“I was frustrated in a sense that we dominated a lot of things except lineouts. All the other facets we dominated. Especially when they were almost under caution from the referee for repeated infringing and we missed the penalty when we could have gone nine points up, then they scored that turnover try and that swung the momentum,.
“Lucky to escape, but the first 40 minutes we played really good tactical rugby.”
The Springboks now travel to Auckland for a week-long training camp before their third and final Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in two weeks’ time in Salta.
Apart from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who did failed his HIA assessment, and was replaced by Jantjies in the second half, there were no notable injuries on the Springbok side.
New Zealand 16 (7) – Try: Jack Goodhue. Conversion: Beauden Barrett. Penalties: Barrrett, Richie Mo’unga (2).
South Africa 16 (6) – Try: Herschel Jantjies. Conversion: Handré Pollard Penalties: Pollard (3)