JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Sep 15 – Leading South African rugby analyst and former Springboks coach Nick Mallett admitted to being amazed by the shock 36-34 victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand Saturday.
“Humble pie never tasted so delicious,” said the SuperSport pundit after the biggest Test upset this year, having predicted South Africa would do well to lose by less than 20 points.
“There was absolutely no pre-match evidence that South Africa would win,” said the 61-year-old who guided the Springboks to third place at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
“They were shocking in away losses to Argentina and Australia recently, hence my prediction that they would do well to lose by less than 20 points.
“But after winning in Wellington they have raised the bar to new heights, and that is where it must stay,” he said of the Rugby Championship fourth-round triumph.
“Let us not, under any circumstances, drift back to those performances in Mendoza and Brisbane. Let us build from what we achieved in Wellington.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the victory, tweeting: “A job very well done by our Springboks for the fierce fight and victory against the tough All Blacks.
“The determination you demonstrated today, away from home, is beyond fulfilling. Our team showed true character from start to finish. Continue to fly the flag, you make us proud.”
Mallett called the performance by the seventh-ranked South Africans against the world champions “brilliant” and “magnificent”.
“New Zealand have scored an average of 35 points when beating us in recent years so we had to get at least 36 — and that is exactly what the team did.
“A key factor was putting the All Blacks under pressure — it is not a situation they are used to dealing with.
“The bounce of the ball also favoured us at times, but we deserved some luck, and the goal-kicking of Handre Pollard was another plus.”
Pollard shrugged off woeful recent goal-kicking form to succeed with five of six shots while opposite number Beauden Barrett converted only two of six.
“I also thought New Zealand erred at the end of the game as they sought a match-winning score by going for a try rather than a drop goal.
“The South African defence was magnificent during those closing stages — all 23 players were heroes.”
Despite the shock loss, New Zealand remain favourites to win the Rugby Championship for a sixth time in seven attempts.
They lead South Africa by six points and can clinch first place by securing a bonus-point victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires this month.
South Africa host New Zealand in Pretoria on October 6 in the final round with the 52,000 tickets sold out two months ago.