PRETORIA -- Five takeaways from the epic Rugby Championship match between the Springboks and the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld.
The All Blacks-Springboks rivalry of old is back ...
A packed Loftus Versfeld is a testimony of how far the Springboks have come this year under Rassie Erasmus. They really should have won this match, as they dominated the All Blacks in almost all aspects of the fixture. Besides last year's one-point defeat in Cape Town, the Boks had got a number of pastings by the All Blacks over the last few years. But the rivalry is back after the Boks beat the All Blacks in Wellington and then came close in Pretoria. This is a great platform for Rassie Erasmus and his team to work from ahead of next year's World Cup in Japan.
Springboks strangled All Blacks in the first half , but ...
The Springboks dominated all the stats that mattered at half-time, except the scoreline. The home side had 72 percent of the territory and more than two-thirds of the possession in the first half, and yet they could only show two penalties for their efforts. The Springboks pinned the All Blacks back in their half with accurate kicking, but they couldn't convert the pressure into points. The Boks' options were terrible in the first stanza and they made a lot of bad errors with ball in hand. That kept a sluggish-looking All Blacks side in the game.
Springboks took their chances brilliantly in the second half
The Springboks' attack, though, came alive at the start of the second half and showed that they can score some great tries when they get it right. To kill off the All Blacks you absolutely have to take your chances, and the Boks did that in the second half when they managed to create a bit more space for themselves. Outside centre Jesse Kriel's try was brilliant, as it was set up by some great handling from both backs and forwards. The Boks, though, can be a lot smarter and clinical with ball in hand.
All Blacks are the best team in the world for a reason
New Zealand's ability to switch gears at crucial times in matches is what separates them from the rest of the world at the moment. It looked like the All Blacks were playing within themselves at stages in the match, although the Boks also should get plenty of credit for putting them under a lot of pressure. But the home side never landed that killer punch, and, if you give the All Blacks a sniff they will, they will, take advantage. The All Blacks are dangerous in the last 20 minutes and they again showed their quality.
Rugby is a game for 23 players ... not just 15
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus was necessitated to clear his bench, because of injuries and fatigue, in the last minutes and his bench couldn't see the team over the line. It's because most of them haven't had the experience of coming on at the death, as Erasmus have tended to play some of his key players like scrumhalf Faf de Klerk for the full 80 minutes in matches. The All Blacks' bench, who took the field a lot earlier, made a big difference in the last 18 minutes, as the All Blacks scored three tries in that period. The Springboks need to give their bench players a lot more minutes on the park, so that they can be able to close out games.