Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus reacts after the game against the All Blacks in Wellington, New Zealand, September 15 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus reacts after the game against the All Blacks in Wellington, New Zealand, September 15 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said luck played its part in his side’s historic win over the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday‚ but luck had very little to do with it.

If anything the Boks were unlucky on their way to a 36-34 win that shook the rugby firmament’s foundations and saved the Rugby Championship from another year of procession and coronation for the All Blacks.

“We are No6 or 7 in the world. We still have to catch up to New Zealand‚ Australia and England‚” Erasmus said.

“There are so many teams ahead of us‚ there is no way we can get ahead of ourselves. This is one win against the world’s best team‚ with a bit of luck.”

Seldom‚ if ever‚ have the All Blacks gone into a Test against the Boks as such overwhelming favourites. Nothing pointed to a Springbok win. Yet the Boks prevailed for only the fourth time in New Zealand in the professional era at the 24th time of asking.

They scored a record 36 points, more than any side in history has managed in a single game against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

They won despite conceding six tries and 10 penalties to three as well as surviving a yellow card. There was no luck in this win. Every inch was earned and every All Black mistake was forced through relentless Bok pressure. Make no mistake‚ the Boks were the unlucky side in this match and still won.

In the build-up to Rieko Ioane’s try in the first-half two minutes before the break‚ there was a clear knock-on‚ yet the try stood.

Referee Nigel Owens missed so much‚ such as a collapsed maul midway through the second half that should have been a Bok penalty. Instead play went on‚ and several phases later New Zealand scored through Ioane again.

What about an advantage for New Zealand after a knock-on by the Boks that saw the All Blacks make 20m‚ only for Owens to say there was no advantage when the phase broke down? From the penalty and line-out the All Blacks scored again‚ with hooker Codie Taylor barging over.

No‚ this was not a lucky performance by the Springboks.

Gutsy‚ desperate‚ skilful‚ belligerent‚ coherent and courageous yes.

But lucky? No‚ despite Erasmus’s attempts at diplomacy.

It was a win earned through toil and commitment.

It sounds ridiculous that a side that leaked six tries as the Boks did could be commended for its defence‚ but that is precisely the case.

The Boks made more than 200 tackles, with indefatigable flank Pieter-Steph du Toit making a staggering 28 and lock Franco Mostert a monumental 23. No wonder Du Toit was in tears after the game.

The only inkling of luck the Boks had was that All Black flyhalf Beauden Barrett missed four of six kicks at goal.

But Barrett was under pressure from the outset and the superb playmaker could barely draw breath before he had a Bok tackler down his throat.

Despite some deft touches‚ such as putting little brother Jordie away from an early try‚ Beauden was rattled.

The Boks won because they dominated the physical battle.

We can talk about “running rugby” and “attacking intent”‚ but the only way to beat New Zealand at home is to bully them. The British & Irish Lions understood this in 2017, and the Boks thankfully learned from their example.

The All Blacks are a great team‚ but they are human.

When confronted with a situation in which they were losing the collisions and being knocked back in contact‚ their composure strayed‚ leading to mistakes and ultimately to Bok points. At its heart rugby is a simple game of physical intimidation. The All Blacks generally win the physical battle‚ which in turn allows them to show off their array of skills. On Saturday, though‚ the All Blacks showed their skill but lost the fight.

They were like a champion boxer facing a less skilled but brutal challenger.

New Zealand were continually punched in the face by an opponent that refused to take a backwards step even when they had to absorb some terrible punishment themselves.

The All Blacks landed blows but the Boks just kept coming back stronger.

Eventually one team wilted‚ and it was not the one wearing green and gold.

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