Stellar effort: Bok captain Siya Kolisi tackles Aaron Smith, who came off the bench and scored a try that started the All Blacks’ fightback at Loftus. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/ BACKPAGEPIX
Stellar effort: Bok captain Siya Kolisi tackles Aaron Smith, who came off the bench and scored a try that started the All Blacks’ fightback at Loftus. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/ BACKPAGEPIX

The Springboks played their best rugby of 2018 against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but unfortunately they had nothing to show for their efforts on the scoreboard.

The All Blacks found the sixth gear that allowed them to reel in a 12-point deficit in the last eight minutes, to beat SA 32-30 in a pulsating Test match.

The result may have been everything for the disappointed capacity crowd, but Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus was happy with the team’s performance. Erasmus admitted that New Zealand’s experienced bench made all the difference.

"It was one of the best tactical performances in a while because we spoke about the expected All Black backlash on our way back from Wellington. We looked back at the time when they lost to Ireland in the US and exacted revenge in Dublin. I was still at Munster at the time and I realised the need to match the All Blacks physically and tactically.

′A class team′

"I really thought we handled them physically and tactically for 72 minutes, but they’re a class team," Erasmus said.

"I thought their bench did better when it came on and I don’t think it was because of effort, I think it was because of experience. I’ll never blame it on the substitutes and if I’m going to blame anyone, it’s going to be me," said the Bok coach.

"The amount of game time the substitutes have got since I’ve been involved with the Springboks in June has been as much as one would have wished for. They had experienced substitutes."

The All Blacks have always been reliant on their bench for the extra spark when the going gets tough. Their coach, Steve Hansen, threw them on early as the Boks raced to a 23-6 lead in the second half before the visitors started their fightback through Aaron Smith’s try.

Hansen said their bench did what was expected of them.

"They provided energy and purpose. Someone like Ardie [Savea] had to come in early and he’s really growing. This season, he’s really made a mark and I think he’s starting to believe that he can be a Test player of real quality," said Hansen.

"We went to our bench really early. Both props were on really early and Patrick Tuipulotu also came on 10 minutes early. How you use your bench is a trump card and both teams have good benches," he said.

"Rassie went deep into the game with his because he could afford to when they’re there, you have to play them at some point. It’s an art to come off the bench and do something … We train that a lot and there’s an expectation that they add to the game. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t but you can’t keep playing everyone for 80 minutes because they’ll run out of petrol," said the coach.

All Black captain Kieran Read missed last week’s game against Argentina so he could be fresh for the Loftus encounter. He led with aplomb and also had an excellent all-round game even though his Bok counterpart Siya Kolisi had a better game. History, though, will record Read as the fifth All Black captain after Sean Fitzpatrick, Taine Randell, Reuben Thorne and Richie McCaw to win at Loftus Versfeld.

Read said they did not entertain thoughts of losing. "With 10 minutes to go when we were down by 12, I always thought we were right in it," Read said.

"For the majority of the game, they dictated us and they did a fantastic job at that and we really didn’t have much of a chance to impart anything on them."

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