New Zealand beat South Africa in Johannesburg
New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship Saturday with a deserved five-try 38-27 triumph over greatest rivals South Africa at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The clinical world champions led 21-15 at half-time and overcame second-half yellow cards to forwards Liam Messam and Ben Franks to finish nine points ahead of the Springboks on the table.
South Africa, who had hooker Bismarck du Plessis controversially sent off in a 29-15 away loss to the All Blacks last month, lost Bryan Habana and Willem Alberts to injury in the opening half.Left-wing Habana limped off with a hamstring injury after bagging two tries and flanker Alberts was stretchered off following a collision just before the break.
"We had the belief to hit back when the momentum was against us," said All Blacks flank and skipper Richie McCaw.
"As an All Black I relish these occasions and winning at this great stadium makes me so proud. We gave everything out there this evening."
South Africa skipper Jean de Villiers said: "To win rugby matches you have to attack and defend and our defence was not up to scratch in this match.
"Let us give credit to New Zealand — they deserved to win the match and the Championship after a great advertisement for rugby."
New Zealand and South Africa enjoyed early spells of territorial dominance before fly-half Morne Steyn broke the deadlock with a close-range penalty on 10 minutes.
But the lead before a 64,000 crowd did not last long as right-wing Ben Smith went over for his eighth Championship try this season.
No. 8 Kieran Read made the hard yards after the Springboks surrendered possession in midfield and Smith cut in to dot down.
Fly-half Aaron Cruden converted and the All Blacks were 7-3 ahead as silence enveloped the crowd at the spiritual home of Springbok rugby.
But they had plenty to cheer five minutes later as Habana grabbed his first try after a brilliant break from No. 8 Duane Vermeulen.
The giant forward surged between several New Zealand defenders before passing to Habana, who stormed over for a try Steyn converted.
It got even better for the home side just two minutes later with a forward again the architect and Habana again the executioner.
As the men in green and gold went wide, flanker Francois Louw delivered a superb off-load, Habana kicked ahead and won a race to the line.
Steyn watched his conversion drift wide of the far post, but South Africa had a 15-7 advantage midway through the opening half.
However, the Springboks were dealt a cruel blow on 22 minutes with France-based star Habana forced to retire.
A see-saw struggle took another turn when scrum-half Aaron Smith was held just short, but flanker Messam grabbed the ball and dived over for Cruden to convert.
South Africa held that one-point lead for 13 minutes in a titanic struggle with neither side gaining a clear edge in any area.
However, the opening half ended disastrously for the Springboks as they lost flank Willem Alberts to injury and allowed Messam score a soft try.
The All Blacks patiently retained possession after the siren sounded and Messam punished several weak tackles, Cruden converted and New Zealand had a 21-15 half-time lead.
A tap penalty produced a third South African try with the ball sent along the line for right-wing Willie le Roux to go over and Steyn converted.
All Blacks centre Ma\’a Nonu was foiled by a superb tackle from replacement flank Siya Kolisi on 55 minutes, but substitute fly-half Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty for a 24-22 edge.
De Villiers and Barrett then exchanged tries with the New Zealand score crucial as it sealed a bonus point and the title.
Steyn missed his conversion while Barrett was successful from a much easier position, leaving the visitors four points ahead with 20 minutes left.
Read, who scored two tries in Auckland last month, scored a fifth New Zealand try after good blindside work and Barrett converted.