PRETORIA, South Africa, Oct 6 – New Zealand twice came from 17 points behind to grab a last-gasp 32-30 win over South Africa in Pretoria Saturday in a Rugby Championship final-round thriller.
Ardie Savea scored a pushover try in the 79th minute to level the scores and another replacement, Richie Mo’unga, slotted a simple conversion for a dramatic triumph.
After turning over level at 6-6, South Africa built a 30-13 lead on the hour only to be pipped by the resilient world champions before a capacity 52,000 crowd.
The result was a bitter blow for the Springboks, who won the possession and territory battles, as they sought successive wins over the All Blacks for the first time since 2009.
New Zealand were stunned 36-34 at home by South Africa last month, leading scrum-half TJ Perenara to say they wanted to “right a wrong” in Pretoria.
The outcome had no bearing on the southern hemisphere championship, with the All Blacks clinching first place after a win in Argentina last weekend and South Africa coming second.
All Blacks skipper Kieran Read said: “You have got to have belief and we had that deep down to come back. Both teams were going at it and the Springboks were outstanding.
“On the two games we were split on the scoreboard and tonight we were a bit fortunate to come out on top.
“We did not have the territory and possession, but we hung in there and, especially when they got momentum, we came back.
“I would like to thank the crowd as the atmosphere was fantastic. This is a great place to play.”
Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi conceded that “we let it get away. We knew it would be tough, but we let it go at the end. It was tough and I am really proud of the boys.
“It was much better than last week (against Australia), but there were still soft moments. We don’t need them at this level and we must learn and see how we can improve.”
New Zealand were forced to make a pre-match change with centre Ryan Crotty replacing ill Jack Goodhue.
– All Blacks threatened for first time –
Crotty and his team-mates were soon on the defensive and Handre Pollard slotted a 55-metre on four minutes to put the Springboks ahead.
It seemed almost surreal that South Africa were dominating territory and possession against the world champions and Pollard kicked another penalty on 13 minutes for a six-point lead.
New Zealand needed 26 minutes to get a scoring opportunity, and they took it with Beauden Barrett kicking a long-range angled penalty.
Within a couple of minutes the All Blacks threatened for the first time in the match to score a try, but were eventually penalised.
Barrett kicked another penalty from in front of the posts to bring the teams level at 6-6 — a disappointing half-time scoreline for the home team given they had so much possession.
After a try-less opening 40 minutes, the second half produced seven, four of them to the All Blacks.
Pollard converted a Jesse Kriel try and slotted a penalty for a 10-point lead that stretched to 23-6 when Damian de Allende scored and the fly-half converted again.
Almost immediately, New Zealand retaliated with an opportunist Aaron Smith try and Mo’unga added the extra points.
South Africa regained a 17-point advantage when Cheslin Kolbe scored in the corner and Pollard maintained a superb goal-kicking performance by converting from the touchline.
But New Zealand once again hit back swiftly with Rieko Ioane diving over only for Mo’unga to miss the conversion.
There were 12 points between the arch rivals and that was trimmed to seven when Scott Barrett claimed a pushover try with four minutes left and Mo’unga converted.
All Blacks pressure took them to the Springboks’ tryline once more and Savea became the hero as he scored close to the posts, leaving Mo’unga to win the match.