Leading for all but seven minutes of the game, the All Blacks showed composure, patience and superior fitness to wear the highly-favoured home team down to claim another memorable victory and retain the Freedom Cup on South Africa’s fortress ground.
They dominated the breakdowns 82-44, claimed four South African throws to the lineout and forced them to make 136 tackles to 76 of their own.
Any hint of the All Blacks’ demise was turned back from the outset as they produced their best start of the season, charging into the home defenders and had their reward when denying the Springboks points scoring chances.
By halftime, the All Blacks had dominated position and possession to take a 15-10 lead. They withstood a determined South African approach in the third quarter and came home strong with two late tries.
The first came after wing Will Jordan took a pressure mark in his 22m area, and then took an immediate tap.
The ball was moved wide to the left flank where centre and man of the match Rieko Ioane made 50 metres down the sideline. The All Blacks swarmed up in support and moving the ball across field, No8 Ardie Savea went close to scoring. But he lobbed the ball for second five-eighths David Havili who stretched out to score in the 73rd minute.
Then, after having caused frustration for the South African lineout by contributing to securing four of their lineouts, lock Sam Whitelock produced a vital turnover at the breakdown. That released ball for Jordie Barrett, who had moved to the wing, to kick to the South African right corner. All Blacks chase pressure saw replacement back Willie le Roux have no room for a long kick.
The All Blacks secured the lineout and, by turning the mauling pressure back on the South Africans, they capped their win with lock Scott Barrett driving over for the try.
South Africa had claimed the lead for the first time in the 66th minute after the All Blacks were punished for two mistakes. Hesitation in the 22m area by first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga resulted in a turnover that yielded a try to wing Makazole Mapimpi, and an unnecessary obstruction in the 66th minute by replacement Beauden Barrett cost the All Blacks the lead for the first time, and saw Barrett sin-binned.
Mapimpi had earlier had a try ruled out after obstruction by Springbok halfback Jaden Hendrikse, but he made no mistake at his second chance.
Then, Barrett’s infringement saw first five-eighths Handré Pollard land his third penalty goal.
But the pace of the game took its toll on the world champions and they were unable to respond in the face of the All Blacks’ desperation and determination.
Moving South Africa around from the outset, the All Blacks created far more chances than in recent outings. They took two of them to score two first-half tries through captain and flanker Sam Cane in the 26th minute, and hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho in the 32nd minute.
Long breakouts from within their own 22m took its toll of the Springbok defence and by the 35th minute they had substituted two of their front row. That had immediate effect when from a controlled lineout drive in the 36th minute, first five-eighths Handré Pollard flinging a wide ball which saw centre Lukhanyo Am wriggle out of wing Caleb Clarke’s tackle in the 36th minute.
But by taking the game to the Springboks up the middle of the park, the All Blacks were much more effective. Flanker Shannon Frizell and Taukei’aho and prop Ethan de Groot were prominent in gaining ground. Whitelock picked off turnovers while No8 Ardie Savea was consistently hard to put to ground.
He was the recipient of the first break New Zealand were able to make on the flanks, almost getting over for an early try.
There was some frustration in missed chances, passes missing their mark, but it was a much-improved effort.
Wings Caleb Clarke and Jordan had more chances to run with the ball, Clarke produced an electric burst from the 22m area that saw the All Blacks make good ground, and from a midfield break Jordie Barrett, linked with Jordan who put Cane over.
Six minutes later a concentrated assault on the Springbok line after a long kick by Mo’unga, the pack worked through seven phases before Savea was driven back in a huge tackle by lock Eben Etzebeth but the ball came back and Taukei’aho rolled over around the blindside to score.
South Africa 23 (Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi tries; Handré Pollard 2 con, 3 pen)
New Zealand 35 (Sam Cane, Samisoni Taukei’aho, David Havili, Scott Barrett tries; Richie Mo’unga 3 con, 3 pen). HT: 10-15