McCaw hails All Blacks win among best of career

South Africa 27 New Zealand 38

Just over a month ahead of their trip to the Aviva Stadium, New Zealand scored five tries on their way to the bonus point win in a game where the lead changed hands with regularity and the All Blacks had to play for 20 minutes with 14 men following yellow cards for Liam Messam and Ben Franks.

“We had to dig deep, both teams came here willing to play,” McCaw admitted. “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.”

McCaw, who hoisted aloft the World Cup trophy in 2011, ranked Saturday’s win among his best in an international career spanning 120 matches given it was achieved at what New Zealand considers South African rugby’s spiritual home. “These are ones you want to play in, this is why you play the game of rugby. Growing up there are places you want to play and to get a chance today and to get a win here is pretty special, I remember watching the 1995 World Cup final (South Africa beat New Zealand 15-12) and thinking that one day it would be awesome to play there.”

The sides enjoyed early spells of territorial dominance before fly-half Morne Steyn broke the deadlock with a close-range penalty on 10 minutes.

But the lead before a 64,000 crowd did not last long as right-wing Ben Smith went over for his eighth Championship try this season.

Fly-half Aaron Cruden converted and the All Blacks were 7-3 ahead as silence enveloped the sell-out crowd at the spiritual home of Springbok rugby.

But they had plenty to cheer five minutes later as left-wing Bryan Habana grabbed his first try after a brilliant break from No. 8 Duane Vermeulen.

It got even better for the home side just two minutes later with a forward again the architect and Habana again the try scorer.

As the men in green and gold went wide, flanker Francois Louw delivered a superb off-load, Habana kicked ahead and easily won a race to the line with Ben Smith.

Steyn watched his conversion drift wide of the far post, but South Africa had a 15-7 advantage midway through the opening half.

However, the Springboks were dealt a cruel blow on 22 minutes with Habana was forced to retire because of a hamstring injury.

A see-saw struggle took another turn when scrum-half Aaron Smith was held just short, but flanker Messam grabbed the ball and dived over for Cruden to convert.

However, the opening half ended disastrously for the Springboks as they lost flanker Willem Alberts to injury and allowed Messam score a soft try.

The All Blacks ran patiently forward and across the field after the siren sounded and Messam punished several weak tackles, Cruden converted and New Zealand had a 21-15 half-time lead.

Messam was yellow-carded early in the second half and the resulting tap penalty produced a third Springbok try, right-wing Willie le Roux going over and Steyn converted.

Substitute fly-half Beauden Barrett kicked a penalty for a 24-22 All Blacks lead before De Villiers and Barrett exchanged tries, with the New Zealand score crucial as it sealed a bonus point and the title.

Steyn missed his conversion while Barrett was successful from a much easier position, leaving the visitors four points ahead with 20 minutes left.

Read, who scored two tries in a 29-15 home win last month, scored a fifth New Zealand try and Barrett converted.

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