JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – A 55-metre Patrick Lambie penalty gave South Africa a thrilling 27-25 Rugby Championship victory over New Zealand Saturday, condemning the world champions to a first defeat in almost two years.
The All Blacks had turned a 24-13 second-half deficit into a one-point lead before Liam Messam fouled Schalk Burger and Lambie became an instant star with his monster kick a minute from time.
Victory before a sell-out 62,000 Ellis Park crowd ended a run of five consecutive losses by the Springboks against the All Blacks, who surrendered a world record 22-match unbeaten run.
It was not the result New Zealand skipper and flanker Richie McCaw would have wished for as he made a record 134th appearance for his country and overtook legendary lock Colin Meads.
“The crowd were unbelievable and we played really well in the first half,” said Springboks skipper and centre Jean de Villiers.
“But we were not so good during the second half and need to find out why. I want to single out our No 8 Duane Vermeulen as a star among stars.
“Duane was declared fit only a few hours before the match and played through the pain barrier to be voted man of the match.”
McCaw said: “We gave ourselves a chance of winning and I am proud of my boys.
“As a little boy I dreamt of these matches, playing in a stadium with a wonderful atmosphere.
“Hopefully, I can be involved in a few more of these special matches.”
Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard had the first chance to score six minutes into the opening half only to pull his penalty left of the post.
A couple of minutes later and the All Blacks nudged ahead as fly-half Beauden Barrett effortlessly guided a 44-metre penalty between the posts.
However, the lead proved shortlived as South Africa ran from their 22 and centre Jan Serfontein gave the scoring pass for scrum-half Francois Hougaard to dive over.Pollard converted and the Springboks had a four-point advantage while spending most of the early minutes inside the All Blacks’ half.
Barrett trimmed the deficit to a single point with his second penalty only for the home side to respond with a second try.
Left-wing Bryan Habana broke clear, easily evaded full-back Israel Dagg, and several passes later Pollard darted over between the posts for a try he converted.
But the world champions hit back with a try from the most unlikely of situations as they gained possession off a retreating scrum. Left-wing Julian Savea demonstrated pace and power to carry the ball deep into Springboks territory and quick, slick passing sent centre Malakai Fekitoa over.
Barrett converted to again leave just one point between the teams in a riveting showdown staged in perfect South African spring conditions.
A one-point lead was stretched to eight on the stroke of half-time when Pollard claimed his second try, swivelling when tackled by McCaw to dot down.