New Zealand vs South Africa result: All Blacks make Rugby World Cup statement with win over Springboks

New Zealand 23-13 South Africa: The All Blacks, who are chasing an unprecedented third successive World Cup success, laid down a marker with a performance which contained some thrilling running rugby

Samuel Lovett
International Stadium Yokohama
Saturday 21 September 2019 13:03
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It was, in so many ways, the sort of performance we’ve come to expect from this New Zealand side of late. Far from their usual perfection. At times a little rough around the edges, crinkled even. But at its core was the same clinical brilliance, the same unshakeable self-belief, the same moments of magic that have come to set them apart from their rivals. Because when the pressure is on, the All Blacks will always find a way to win. That’s exactly what they did here in Yokohama, securing a 23-13 victory over their fiercest of rivals.

That there were even question marks over who would emerge victorious from this clash alluded to the recent swings in momentum of these two sides. Whereas South Africa have picked themselves up from the lows of 2016, which saw them humiliated at the hands of the Italians, the All Blacks headed into this tournament with their usual aura of invincibility looking somewhat faded. With Steve Hansen placing his faith in the Richie Mo’unga-Beauden Barrett tandem, which had underwhelmed against the Springboks in the summer’s 16-16 draw, New Zealand were under the spotlight.

For the opening 25 minutes at least, it proved almost blinding. South Africa were by far the better of the two teams as they kept the All Blacks at bay with their rush defence and asked probing question in attack. They were slicker with the ball in hand, more assured in their running. Their hits were harder and more impactful as New Zealand struggled to find their feet at International Stadium Yokohama.

But in failing to capitalise on this spell of dominance – they ultimately struggled to create any clear-cut chances – South Africa were duly punished. The flow of this match swung rapidly in the All Blacks’ direction as they landed a quick-fire two-try punch, courtesy of George bridge and Scott Barrett, to seize control. This is what New Zealand do. This is what they’re capable of: a thumping great smack across the cheeks, with 14 points to boot.

For both scores, South Africa will rue their careless mistakes. On the first, a spilled ball from Duane Vermuelen was followed by a Mo’unga cross-field kick to Sevu Reece, the wing burning off Makazole Mapimpi on the break before feeding Ardie Savea.

With the Springboks scrambling to recover, the ball was quickly worked through to George Bridge who bundled over on the opposite frank to complete a free-flowing movement – one that showcased New Zealand’s ability to produce excellence out of nothing.

As for the second, a Handre Pollard knock-on was similarly capitalised on, with Anton Lienert-Brown receiving from Dane Coles to weave through South Africa’s out-of-sorts backline and break free for the line. An accompanying Beauden was on hand to finish under the posts.

In the space of three minutes, it was New Zealand who were now in the ascent.

South Africa nonetheless showed their mettle in refusing to roll over, fighting back through a Pieter-Steph du Toit try seven minutes after the break. A lapse in concentration from the champions allowed the unchallenged forward to pick up possession from a ruck on the five-metre line. It was a costly mistake that threatened to undo all their hard work.

South Africa took the fight to New Zealand in the opening 25 minutes but were soon turned over

With the score briefly poised at 17-13, New Zealand channelled their trademark composure to stem the flow of green shirts bearing down in the minutes that followed. Hansen’s men bedded in, slowed the match down and took the sting out of their opponents’ attack.

Two second-half penalties from the boot of Mo’unga made sure of the win, though the electric Cheslin Kolbe kept the reigning champions on their toes with two piercing runs down the right flank – both of which looked sure to end in a try, only to fall short.

This result means the All Blacks have still never lost a pool stage game, winning all 29 such fixtures. More importantly, it underlined why they are the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup come November.

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