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For the worldwide rugby community, the empirical thinking was that New Zealand’s undefeated streak of 22-games since losing to England at Twickenham in December 2012, could continue until the Rugby World Cup of 2015. But South Africa disproved that notion in a thrilling, at home 27-25 win last Saturday in Johannesburg in the last match of the Rugby Championship.
The Boks had only beaten the All Blacks once in the past ten games, and lost 14-10 in a close September 2014 match away on New Zealand turf. The All Blacks had lost twice in the last 38-games since their RWC 2011 championship.
The SA fly half situation seemed dire due to injuries, but stepping up was Handre Pollard, the IRB’s Young Player of the Year (shared award) who led the U-20 Boks to the 2014 Junior World Championships. In a dream game he scored 19 points: two tries, two conversions a third conversion, and a penalty.
South Africa jumped out and led by 11 points at half time but the dangerous All-Blacks (captained by Richie McCaw, celebrating his record breaking 134th NZ cap), rallied to lead 25-24 with less than three-minutes to play. A late, and controversial penalty, set up the Boks’ Patrick Lambie (a Pollard substitute) to clear a 55 meter penalty for the 27th and winning point.
The loss did not affect the 2014 Rugby Championship won by New Zealand for the third year in a row. Yet, the message, at least for the Springboks, is that New Zealand are not invincible.