CAPTAIN Richie McCaw conceded New Zealand had to “dig deep” in their frenzied 38-27 victory over South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday that saw them retain the Rugby Championship title.
New Zealand scored five tries during a bonus point win in which the lead changed hands often and the All Blacks had to play for 20 minutes with 14 men following yellow cards for Liam Messam and, later on, for Ben Franks.
The showing was all the more impressive in that New Zealand arrived in Johannesburg on Monday from Argentina, acclimatising quickly and showing no adverse effects from the altitude at which they were playing.
“We had to dig deep, both teams came here willing to play,” McCaw told reporters. “We had 20 minutes with 14 men, add into that a bit of travel, it was a very satisfying win.
“Going behind we could easily have got flustered, but the guys hung in there. We took our chances really well and there were times when we were under a lot of pressure and then got a critical turnover.”
McCaw believed Messam’s try after the siren at the end of the first half that took the All Blacks into the break 21-15 up was the crucial moment in the game, a point reiterated by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“The try on half-time was critical, I’m sure it changed their half-time talk,” McCaw said. “But credit to the Boks, they came out in the second half and scored again quickly, though we were able to keep ourselves ahead in the game.”
The All Blacks skipper added: “There is very little between these teams and they put us under a hell of a lot of pressure. It’s the same every game I have played against the Boks, if you don’t get it 100 per cent right you are in trouble.”
The world champion All Blacks took their recent dominance a significant step further with the five tries scored in this intimidating inner-city cauldron against a Springboks team that managed four tries of their own against the All Blacks for the first time in nearly a decade.
New Zealand’s fourth try and title-winning blow came in the 61st minute of a breathless contest when replacement fly-half Beauden Barrett sliced through, and outstanding No 8 Kieran Read scored the fifth two minutes later to completely shatter the Boks.
De Villiers scored South Africa’s fourth try in the 58th and, for just under three minutes, with the score 27-24 to the hosts and a roaring crowd behind them, the Boks sensed the possibility of stealing the title. They had to then just win the game by more than seven points, while shutting the visitors out, but the All Blacks’ late surge put this against-the-odds feat way beyond them.