The Rugby Championship
New Zealand retain Rugby Championship

New Zealand retain Rugby Championship

New Zealand retained The Rugby Championship with a pulsating 38-27 victory over South Africa at Ellis Park on Saturday.

South Africa needed a four-try bonus point victory to secure the title, as well as stopping the All Blacks from securing a bonus point.

In an enthralling encounter, tries from Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Kieran Read and a brace from Liam Messam proved enough to secure the title for New Zealand.

Despite scoring four tries of their own through Willie le Roux, Jean De Villiers and two in three minutes from Bryan Habana, the Springboks’ heroic effort proved in vain.

Habana and Willem Alberts went off injured in the first half for South Africa, while New Zealand had Messam and Ben Franks yellow carded in the second half.

Heyneke Meyer recalled forwards Bismark du Plessis and Juandre Kruger for South Africa, while captain Richie McCaw and tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina returned to Steve Hanson’s starting New Zealand pack.

Ben Smith’s fine solo try for the All Blacks cancelled out Morne Steyn’s ninth-minute penalty, stepping his way past a number of oncoming Springbok defenders to touch down for his eighth try of the campaign, with Aaron Cruden converting.

Toulon winger Habana then responded for the hosts, impressively touching down for two scores after 15 and 17 minutes, before succumbing to an injured hamstring.

Weak tackling from Faumuina and Ma’a Nonu in midfield allowed Duane Vermeluen to offload to Habana to race clear for his first score. Following strong build-up play from Francois Louw, Habana then chipped the ball over the oncoming Ben Smith and regathered possession for his second.

Back-row forward Messam responded for the All Blacks with two tries of his own, however, powering over from close range for his first after 28 minutes. He then scored his second out wide, on the stroke of half-time, after a turnover from Kieran Read.

Ahead 21-15 at the break, Messam was then yellow carded for New Zealand and South Africa took full advantage as Le Roux regained the lead for the hosts minutes later, the winger scoring a close-range try following extended pressure on the All Black line.

Steyn converted the try, but replacement fly-half Barrett then kicked New Zealand back in front with a penalty.

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers then scored his side’s all-important fourth try after 58 minutes but any hope of securing the title diminished when Barrett scored New Zealand’s fourth try and secured the unassailable bonus point.

After Franks was sin-binned for punching, Read wrapped up victory with their fifth try after 64 minutes.

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