South Africa beat an out-of-form New Zealand to win 26-10 in the opening match of the Rugby Championship on Saturday and put the pressure on the All Blacks with their fifth defeat in six matches.
The Springboks scored two tries at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, one at the start by winger Kurt-Lee Arendse and one at the end. Substitute Willie le Roux crossed as the All Blacks launched a desperate late attack deep in their own 22 to try and salvage some pride.
The Springboks were in control throughout and had a big territorial advantage to work with, despite finishing with 14 men. Arendse was shown a red card in the 75th minute – as he lay face down to receive medical treatment – for a very dangerous mid-air charge on Beauden Barrett.
The Springboks led 19-3 with minutes to go and headed for a big win over an All Blacks side who had been overpowered by the scrum, ruthless defending and persistent tactical kicking from the home side that kept visitors stuck in their own half for the majority of the game.
New Zealand finally escaped in the dying minutes thanks to a flurry from winger Caleb Clarke. He was brought in just before the line by Damian Willemse but substitute striker Shannon Frizell was on hand to score the All Blacks’ only try two minutes from time.
The consolation barely lasted a minute when Frizell dropped a pass from captain, Sam Cane, as the All Blacks tried to attack past their try line, allowing Le Roux to kick forward, to flop the ball over the line and seal the win. Springbok opener Handré Pollard scored 16 points.
The All Blacks are due to play a second Test against South Africa next week at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and head coach Ian Foster’s job hangs by a thread, as does flanker Cane’s future as a team leader. New Zealand are in the midst of their worst run in 24 years following last month’s historic home defeat to Ireland.
Another loss to the world champions next weekend would likely be the end of Foster. New Zealand chief executive Mark Robinson recently refused to guarantee his position beyond the two games against South Africa, throwing the All Blacks into turmoil just over a year from the Cup of the rugby world in France.