New Zealand 23-13 South Africa: Three talking points from the All Blacks' win
In what was the most anticipated game of the 2019 Rugby World Cup group stage, New Zealand outlasted rivals South Africa, 23-13.
Honors were even between the All Blacks and the Springboks at The Rugby Championship earlier this year. Both teams played out a 16-16 draw at the Westpac Stadium on July 27. Rassie Erasmus’ men, however, had the last laugh as they wrested the trophy from the All Blacks who surprisingly finished third. Australia was the second-placed nation.
The Springboks opened the scoring in today’s mammoth encounter in Yokohama. Handre Pollard converted a 2nd minute penalty and the Boks held onto the three-point lead for the next 20 minutes.
The All-Blacks levelled the scores via a Richie Mo’unga penalty in the 23rd minute. The All Blacks ran rampant after that with George Bridge scoring a try a minute later. Beauden Barrett carved out the Springboks’ defensive line before handing it over to Bridge for the try.
New Zealand’s second try was an even better spectacle. Anton Lienert-Brown weaved his way through South Africa’s line to set up the simplest of tries for Scott Barrett in the 27th minute.
The Springboks did try to mount a comeback in the second half. They looked more energetic at the early stages of the second period and were finally able to score a try, eight minutes into the second half. Pieter-Steph du Toit and Faf de Klerk executed a beautiful dummy in the ruck with the former diving in to get the five points.
With the scores at 20-13 in New Zealand’s favor, the Springboks had opportunities to level the reading. Chesnil Kolbe, however, was left isolated and was unable to get the try. What made it worse for South Africa was that they turned the ball over five meters away from the try area.
New Zealand kicked off their title defense with a win in the toughest group game. They are set to face Canada next. The Springboks will take on continental rivals Namibia a week from now.
New Zealand’s suffocating defensive line
A big point of differentiation between New Zealand and South Africa today was the space afforded to the forwards. Even if it was for a short period of time.
Steve Hansen’s cohorts rarely put a step wrong with Joe Moody, Sam Cane and Scott Barrett combining for a total of 30 tackles. New Zealand had a 75% tackle success rate (86 successful from 114 attempts) as compared to South Africa’s success rate of 67% (72 from 107).
South Africa’s deficiencies were pounced upon by the Hansen’s men and this turned out to be a major difference maker.
No help for Cheslin Kolbe and the Springboks’ inability to capitalize on opportunities
Kolbe was by far the Boks’ best player today. The fullback was electric in possession, tallying 118 meters on nine carries. Kolbe also beat 11 defenders today.
Unfortunately for Kolbe, he had little support in his attacking endeavors. This resulted in him being overrun by New Zealand’s defense.
To make matters worse for South Africa, they wasted a golden opportunity to level the scores as well. With the ball five meters from the try area, one would expect the Springboks to get the try. The All Blacks, however, were well disciplined to outdo Erasmus’ players’ attempts to find an opening.
A classic Beauden Barrett performance
Barrett was one of the highly-touted names heading into this World Cup. He had a career-defining campaign four years ago in England.
Hansen has been experimenting with his position but Barrett showed his versatility today, operating as a fullback instead of being a fly-half.
Barrett chalked up 56 meters on 17 carries and dished out 12 passes. He was a nuisance for Siya Kolisi and company throughout the game and was duly named the Player of the Match. Barrett also scored three points in the game, scoring from a 72nd minute penalty to give New Zealand a 10-point cushion.
Japan could well be another conquering ground for 28-year-old.
Cover image credits: The Hindu