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Ken Borland

Boks narrow gap on All Blacks as World Cup looms

Posted on November 04, 2014 by Ken

Next year’s World Cup may only be in the corner of their minds, but all the players and coaches involved in the epic Ellis Park Test between South Africa and New Zealand on Saturday night agree that the Springboks have largely narrowed the gap between themselves and the world champions.
The Springboks squeaked home 27-25 to end a five-game losing streak against the All Blacks, but recent matches between the two sides have been desperately close with, as New Zealand coach Steve Hansen acknowledged, the scoreboard not always reflecting the toughness of the battle.

“There’s very little between the sides, as seen today. There’s still a wee way to go until the World Cup, but we’ll just have to get better. Playing the Springboks at Ellis Park is always hard and tough, and you have to be spot-on to get the result. But we didn’t start as well as we would have liked, and that made it a hard old day,” All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said after the defeat.

“It came down to a 55m penalty under pressure but my heart says the Springboks probably deserved to shade it,” Hansen said magnanimously. “Our team hates losing, but the right team won although I’m bloody proud of the way we nearly snuck it at the end. The last ruck penalty could have gone either way, and then we’d be sitting here happy chappy.”

“I always wanted to know what it feels like to beat the All Blacks!” satisfied Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said.

“I’m very proud of the team, these are the sort of games you have to pull through, and I’m very relieved. The game could have gone either way, the All Blacks came back brilliantly and they really are a quality side. The last game between us was the same.

“I’m humbled to have been involved in such a great Test, I’ve seen a lot of great games, but this was against the best in the world. It was on a knife’s edge and the win showed the team has developed. I’m very proud of the depth because we’ve had a lot of injuries,” Meyer said.

“The last couple of games against the All Blacks have been colossal, the others could have gone our way and this one could have gone their way. But it was important for us to win tonight, the whole year I’ve believed we are good enough to beat them but it was a box we hadn’t ticked, the one thing we hadn’t done. I know it means a lot to the players and the coaches,” Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said.

Both Meyer and De Villiers were on the same page that Lambie had to kick for poles rather than set up a lineout when the crucial match-winning penalty was awarded to the Springboks in the 79th minute. That was despite there being real doubt that the replacement flyhalf had the length of boot to succeed.

“Pat has a very cool head but I wasn’t sure if he could kick that far. Handre was kicking them over from 65m in the warm-up so I asked Pat how far he could kick,” Meyer recounted. “He said he’d tell me after the warm-up, but he never came back to me! But it was a great kick under massive pressure.”

“There was no doubt, I asked Pat if it was in range and he said ‘definitely’. We have a saying in the squad, ‘Know your job, Do your job’ and Pat did exactly that. He had another 10m on the kick!” De Villiers said.

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