The Springboks' first victory over New Zealand in Cape Town since 1976 resulted from swarming defence and courageous tackling, though New Zealand were the more creative side in attack. In the last 10 minutes, when Rico Gear and Daniel Carter both broke into the South African 22, the All Blacks seemed capable of snatching a victory. But both were hauled down by desperate tackles, the type that had been seen all afternoon from the home side.
South Africa have now beaten Australia, twice, and New Zealand on consecutive weekends, justification for their elevation to No 2 in the world rankings.
"We had to be good, very good to get past these guys," said Jake White, the Springboks coach. "It always feels good to beat New Zealand, especially in such an intense Test match as this one. But we know it could have gone either way and we're not fooled. We must improve further."
Certain elements within the All Black game, such as their line-out throwing and timing and their composure under pressure, were too often below par. But they defended as a team, and got their collective reward.
De Villiers' interception try from 75 metres helped to give them a 13-0 advantage within the first nine minutes. But a measured, confident New Zealand side gradually worked their way back to parity before conceding a 16-13 interval deficit to a second penalty from the full-back Percy Montgomery.
South Africa's defence was even better in the second half, and that was the critical factor. The New Zealand coach, Graham Henry, said simply: "We are happy to acknowledge that today we just lost to a team that was better than us."
South Africa: Try De Villiers; Conversion Montgomery; Penalties Montgomery 4; Drop goal Pretorius. New Zealand: Try Gear; Conversion Carter; Penalties Carter 3.
South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana; A Pretorius, E Januarie (F du Preez, 60); O du Randt (G Steenkamp, 50), J Smit (capt), C J van der Linde, B Botha, V Matfield, J Smith, S Burger, J van Niekerk (J Cronje, 75).
New Zealand: L MacDonald (J Rokocoko, 68); R Gear, T Umaga (capt; L McAlister, 76), A Mauger, M Muliaina; D Carter, B Kelleher (P Weepu, 9); A Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Hayman (G Somerville, 68), C Jack, A Williams, J Collins, R McCaw, R So'oialo.
Referee: A Cole (Australia).
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