I was privileged enough to attend the test between the Springboks and All Blacks at Ellis Park this weekend. And what a game it was. An epic test match between the two best rugby nations to ever play the game. 63888 supporters packed into the stadium and the atmosphere was electric.
The Boeing, as in 1995, flew over the stadium and with the first passing the crowd erupted. What they didn’t know was that this plane, with the words GO SPRINGBOKS! On its belly, would pass over no less than 3 times.
Beast led the Springboks out onto the park and was greated with cries of: “BEEEEAAAAST!!!!!” in his 50th test for his adopted country.
The National Anthems brought goose bumps on goose bumps and it was clear that the supporters were behind the Springboks. When the Haka was done by the All Black, I could barely hear it on the TV in the suite. And that was with a closed door. The sounds of Ole, Ole, Ole being sang by the crowd the only thing you did hear.
And then it was time for the game to get underway. The Springboks didn’t start too badly and soon had a 15-7 lead. Bryan Habana scoring two tries with Morne Steyn converting one and landing a penalty. The fact that the All Blacks managed two easy tries should have had warning bells sounding at halftime. An injury to Habana also made a huge difference. The one to Willem Alberts allowed Franco vd Merwe to make his debut for the Boks at age 30. The All Blacks came back with two tries before the break. Halftime score 15-21 to the All Blacks.
South Africa had their bonus point try with 20 minutes left to go after Willie Le Roux and Jean de Villiers scored a try a piece. Morne once again only managed to convert one of the tries.
Beauden Barrett and Kieran Reid scored two tries for the visitors and that was all they need all though Barret added a penalty for good measure.
In the end much can be said and there will be a lot of debate regarding the performance of both sides in this test. Attacking rugby was played by both sides and it was good to watch. The Springboks can only blame themselves for poor defensive errors and soft turnovers at times. That cost them the game and the title in the end. It might also have been a case of winning the Rugby Championship title before winning the game.
Nigel Owens and his Assistant Referees were in top form and must be applauded for how they handled the game.
After the game I was lucky enough to meet World Cup winning Captain and current Sharks CEO, John Smit. And he obliged me with a photo and autograph on my jersey. A moment I will not forget for a while to come. ‘
South Africa 27 – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Willie le Roux, Jean de Villiers. Conversions: Morne Steyn (2). Penalty: Steyn.
New Zealand 38 – Tries: Ben Smith, Liam Messam (2), Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (3), Barrett (2). Penalty: Barrett.