The Springbok's 32-29 victory over the All Blacks in Hamilton was just reward for an excellent Springbok side.
It's been a season of milestones for this Springbok side who have won every major title this year. Two years after winning the World Cup, they can add the British and Irish Lions series, A Tri-nations title, The Freedom Cup and the Nelson Mandela Plate.
In Hamilton they achieved their third consecutive victory over the All Blacks for the first time since 1949. They've now beaten the All Blacks in their last two encounters in New Zealand too, which must give them great hope of becoming the first side to defend the Rugby World Cup in two years time. Slowly but surely this Bok side is switching the mental dominance between these two sides around.
Like all the Springboks's Tri-nations victories this year, the Springbok pack was magnificent in suffocating the opposition. However the role of the backline in complementing a dominant forward pack should not go unnoticed.
New Zealander Ian Jones commented that the Springboks were winning the little battles, and each player knew his role and worked hard for the collective team effort.
I'd definitely agree with that. I don't think people acknowledge just how good a coach Peter de Villiers is The fact that the players have taken tremendous ownership this year, and look the happiest Springbok squad since Francois Pienaar led the side in 1995 is testament to that.
Jean de Villiers said, "I think Peter has been the right guy at the right time and he definitely has to take the credit for all our victories. We are getting the victories and Peter must take the credit for it. He has managed to keep the guys together and make it a successful team"
Peter de Villiers has stated that the Springboks aim to win every single battle on the rugby field. Every lineout, every scrum, every breakdown. You can see the effort the players make to do so, and it has resulted in greater consistency and performances.
Couple with a great Springbok player captain and leader in John Smit, and assisted by Victor Matfield, this Springbok side is focused, composed and confident. On Saturday I felt they got the rough end of the refereeing decisions, but whereas in the past it may have been an excuse, this side simply controlled their own destiny by rising above the circumstances.
The lineout once again reigned supreme from start, and put massive pressure on the All Blacks.
The All Blacks weren't able to get front foot ball and when they tried to spread it to the backline the Boks rushed up through the midfield forcing Stephen Donald to cut back inside where the Springboks forwards were waiting. Consequently the Boks enjoyed good territory and possession.
Goal kicking and direction
Francois Steyn was magnificent in kicking three long range penalties. Normally he misses one or two, but his ball striking was spot on. He is a tremendous talent who has started to blossom under de Villiers reign recently, and his loss to South African rugby is becoming larger and larger.
Morne Steyn's option taking was brilliant and he kept the Springboks moving forward. During the week he stated it was his role to keep the Springboks going forward, even if he was receiving ball on the back foot which makes it tough for any flyhalf to shine.
His ability to take responsibility and step up to the challenge demonstrates to me that he will achieve even greater things as Springbok flyhalf, if that is possible.
All Black flyhalf Dan was under tremendous pressure and did not play badly. he kicked out of hand and at goal particularly well, but he didn't have the same quality of personnel around him.
The scrums were one area that neither side dominated. The All Blacks would have fancied their chances here after the Springboks recent woes. They did pressure the Bok scrum and a couple of times Pierre Spies came up with errors, but when it truly counted with 18 minutes to go, the Springbok scrum stepped up and demolished the All Black scrum on All Black ball when the All Blacks had all the momentum going for them.
It is not necessarily dominating every battle, but the key ones that help carry your side to victory.
Earlier this week John Smit told us that the Boks liked to be one or two scores ahead going into the final quarter. Whilst the All Blacks came back hard after they looked down and out at 29-12, I always felt the Boks had control of this game. The calmness exhibited by the Springbok leadership of Smit, and Victor Matfield showed me just how mentally astute and tough this Bok side is.
With all three Tri-nations side building for World Cup in New Zealand in two years time, the Springboks are in a great place mentally with their successes this season. Their strength lies in remaining humble, not being satisfied with their successes and looking to get better and better so they can successfully defend their World Crown.
Whilst it won't be easy, we have a great chance of repeating our success!
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