An All Black try from fractured play right off the bat. A card for daring to try to intercept. You couldn’t have designed a worse start for South Africa.
And yet, the lead changed seven times. A true fetcher, a fired up skipper, a superior second row, and Frans ‘Malbec’ Malherbe winning his familiar two-penalty scrum margin. George Bridge never looked comfortable under the garryowen. The ball was jarred from New Zealand carriers more times than I ever recall in the professional era.
With a few minutes to play, the embattled Boks had somehow managed to eke out a one-point lead, and even had possession.
But with all that, it still felt like South Africa had set the table, hell, built the table and the chairs, killed the calf, cooked it down, put the food on the plates, and then forgot to eat!
Twice or maybe three times, a series of brutally effective pack play had won the Boks the ball well inside the Kiwi half, and Faf de Klerk or Herschel Jantjies hoofed it high.
The time was ripe. The All Blacks were just as tired. The Bok wings are quick as hell. But the ball was wasted on speculators.
It was if the Boks kept hoping their lucky try would be duplicated. And the All Blacks, too, passing sloppily, hoping it would stick. But Jordie Barrett cleaned up at the back, Bridge never hung his head, and on the other side, the Boks smashed All Black runners, or jackled them.
And so it came down to kicks. A kick. As it seemed it would.
And what a kick it was. One of the best I’ve seen to win this level of Test match.
Flushed. Pure. Roped.
I told myself before he kicked, that Jordie simply had to miss it. He was due a miss.
But the raccoon-haired fullback held his nerve and broke Bok hearts.
Jordie Barrett from range ???? Seals it for the All Blacks!
— Stan Sport (@StanSportAU) September 25, 2021
It was a proper Test.
It’s a pity the Boks never play off ten. But the counter argument is this style of rugby creates 1-3 point contests with the No.1 attacking team.
This was a full blown masterpiece of Bok forward play. Sadly, their backline could not equal them.
All of the Bok forwards stepped up, even Kwagga Smith, who I’ve critiqued harshly.
But an over reliance on the base kick robbed the Boks of that extra punch needed to win.
Jordie, take a bow. There are areas to work on for NZ: the midfield, the high ball, set piece, and handling. But they knew how to keep at it, kept composure when it mattered, and took the biscuits.
Good on you, old foe and friend.