New Zealand hailed the All Blacks’ stunning 38-27 victory over the Springboks to clinch the Rugby Championship on Saturday as “one of the all-time great games.”
The All Blacks “are now unequivocally and undoubtedly the supreme team in world rugby,” Fairfax Media columnist Marc Hinton wrote yesterday as he led an outpouring of praise in the rugby-obsessed nation.
With New Zealand still recovering from the shock last month of losing yachting’s holy grail, the America’s Cup, the All Blacks dominance was a much-needed tonic.
The emphatic way they achieved it was also seen as partly easing the heartache of losing the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in extra time to South Africa on the same ground. The win at Ellis Park in Johannesburg was only the fourth time in 12 attempts the All Blacks have beaten their arch-rivals at the spiritual home of South African rugby.
In the showdown between the two top-ranked sides in the world, the All Blacks outscored the Springboks five tries to four as they claimed the premier southern hemisphere competition for a second consecutive year.
“This match, one the rugby world had waited for, will go down as one of the all-time greats,” rugby writer Liam Napier said on the Stuff Web site.
In a dig at the All Blacks’ opponents on their upcoming northern hemisphere tour next month — France, England and Ireland — the Herald on Sunday newspaper said the Springbok clash was likely to be the All Blacks “toughest test of the year.”
“They stood up to the physicality of the ’Boks and in the end had too much skill and fitness for the home side,” it said.
The All Blacks finished unbeaten in their six championship matches and picked up four bonus points to finish on 28, nine points clear of South Africa on 19, with Australia third on nine and Argentina on two.
Going into the final round of the four-team competition, South Africa needed to score at least four tries, win the game and deny the All Blacks any bonus points.
However, playing on their favorite ground, the Springboks could only achieve the four-try target, one less than the All Blacks.
“Steve Hansen’s All Blacks have proven their mettle in the most testing of circumstances to pull off one of their finest victories in Test match history,” Hinton said.
There was solace for TV3’s Shaun Summerfield who recalled the World Cup final at the same ground 18 years ago and he “sensed finally, the ghosts of 1995 fading away.”
PUMAS VS WALLABIES
Reuters, BUENOS AIRES
A different training schedule and a strategy rethink combined to power Australia to a thumping 54-17 victory against Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said.
The Wallabies ran in seven tries as they dampened Felipe Contepomi’s international farewell and dashed the Pumas’ hopes of their first victory in the southern hemisphere’s elite Rugby Championship.
“We had great playing conditions ... we lost the toss for the sixth game in a row so we were staring down the barrel, [but] we really played with purpose and showed some toughness at key moments,” McKenzie said.
“We trained differently in the week and spent time talking about how we wanted to play. The mindset was good and that transferred to the pitch,” he added at the post-match news conference without elaborating on the new training method.