Ardie Savea of the All Blacks runs towards the tryline during the Rugby Championship match between the Springboks and New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on October 6 2018.
Ardie Savea of the All Blacks runs towards the tryline during the Rugby Championship match between the Springboks and New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on October 6 2018.
Image: Lee Warren

Having just scored a try to draw the teams level at 30-all‚ All Blacks flank Ardie Savea thought he saw Richie Mo’unga botch the conversion.

“For a minute I thought Richie missed it‚ because the crowd went wild. But it was awesome to see the flags go up and the final whistle blowing‚” Savea said.

That probably also speaks volumes of the support the All Blacks enjoy in SA.

Mo’unga was confronted with a straightforward kick to seal a stunning 32-30 Rugby Championship come-from-behind win for the All Blacks.

“I was saying to myself ‘get through the ball and kick it’‚” Mo'unga said. “It’s the greatest moment of my short career. It’s a dream.”

The fact that he was even lining up that kick speaks volumes for the All Blacks’ team culture. Beauden Barrett had delivered a flawless performance with the boot up to then but was happy for the less experienced Mo’unga to handle the pressure.

“What I learned from the Wellington Test is that I can actually hand the kicking tee over to Richie. He came on with fresh legs and kicked really well‚” said Barrett.

The kicking tee went to Mo’unga as Barrett also had to help captain Kieran Read set out their next course of action.

“It was refreshing to get back there and help. We had to go point at our next task. It is great to have that depth to have a guy like Richie come off the bench because it is a 23-man job‚” said Barrett.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster had a far simpler explanation.

“When Richie came on he [Barrett] was breathing a bit hard. We kind of trust the decisions they make on the park‚” said Foster. “He’ll [Mo’unga] reflect on it and love the moment of kicking the winning goal. He made some smart decisions too. Overall he didn’t panic and can bank another experience.”

Savea made it onto the field a lot earlier than anticipated. Sam Cane was injured in the 36th minute and gingerly left the field to pave the way for the Hurricanes flank.

Coach Steve Hansen noted that in 2018 Savea had grown in his belief that he is a high-calibre Test player.

“It was just instinct‚” said Savea about his lunge for the match-winning try. “You’ve just got to back yourself and fortunately enough I’m just grateful I crossed the line and put the ball down.”

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