With Boks beaten, time for revenge over England
There were so many positive aspects to come out of last Saturday's blockbuster test in Johannesburg, it's hard to know where to begin.
The win alone would have been sufficient, because history reveals how difficult it has been for the All Blacks in the past at Ellis Park, but there was so much more than that to come out of what was one the greatest 80 minutes of test rugby ever.
Let's say right at the start that referee Nigel Owens, sometimes a rather pedantic character with a whistle, was absolutely top class and made a major contribution to the spectacle. And what a spectacle it was, the best since Jonah Lomu waltzed over in the corner to win that test in Sydney 13 years ago after the All Blacks had run away to a massive early lead and had been caught and overtaken by the Wallabies.
There was speculation before the game that the Springboks would be happy to take the win, which so often goes their way at Ellis Park, and ignore the added incentive of tacking on the four tries to claim the Championship.
Whatever their intentions where, the two Bryan Habana tries in the first half meant that even before halftime the Boks were kicking to the corners and hoping to maul the All Blacks over their line. The Liam Messam try on the halftime hooter was arguably the pivotal moment in the game because it would have completely changed the dynamics in the respective team rooms during the break.
Heyneke Meyer would have been forced to concede to his side that one more try in the second half and the Championship hopes were gone, and so defence was now vitally important, while Steve Hansen didn't have to mention a rare 40-minute deficit and could concentrate on everything positive.
Heroes - they were everywhere. To me, Richie McCaw, if possible, reached new levels. Here was a bloke that limped off Waikato Stadium on September 7 with a knee injury that seemed certain to rule him out of the remainder of the Rugby Championship, but back he comes four weeks later and plays for 80 minutes, at a high standard, against our greatest rugby opponent in one of the most hostile rugby environments you will anywhere.
None of us will be around to find out, but I reckon when in the year 2100 they name the "New Zealand Rugby Player of the Century", the name R.McCaw will be to the forefront.
I hope the pundits of the day will understand what a phenomenon this bloke is. No question that Kieran Read was man of the match as he confirmed, once again, that there is no better No 8 in the world of rugby.
Beauden Barrett missed an early tackle on Jean de Villiers but the Hurricanes pivot showed his true class off the bench and has the potential to become, in the not too distant future, a permanent wearer of the All Black No 10 jersey.
"Interested and rather covert observers at the test were England assistant coaches Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree. Both were highly impressed with the game, and how couldn't they be? They know that the All Blacks' main focus for the remainder of the year is to exact revenge on England after the loss at Twickenham in 2012, and on the evidence of Ellis Park, you wouldn't bet against it."
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