All Blacks outclass the Springboks in Soweto
The courageous All Blacks are one step closer to the world record after clinching a clean sweep of the inaugural Rugby Championship with a 32-16 victory over the resurgent Springboks in Soweto.
Playing on one leg, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw became the first player to achieve 100 test wins in what was an occasion to be remembered.
Over 80,000 manic Bok fans set the scene and these two great rivals delivered a fitting spectacle.
The All Blacks had twice stalled on win No 16. Not this time.
They will head to Brisbane next week with the world record of 17 consecutive wins for top tier nations in their sights. No-one will bet against them now.
Put in context, this hard-fought four-tries-to-one victory on the highveld was an amazing achievement.
Steve Hansen's men could have easily used complacency as an excuse after securing the tournament trophy last week, but they realised the Boks at home was their greatest challenge and, boy, did they rise to meet them.
Kieran Read called this the world champion's defining moment of the season and, although he lost the ball over the line in the dying stages, he and the entire squad again emphasised their superiority.
Their ninth win of the year, which broke the Boks unbeaten home record, was also the first time in recent memory the All Blacks have delivered back-to-back clinical performances.
The Boks deserve credit for their part. While coach Heyneke Meyer didn't get the ideal 45th birthday present, on reflection he will realise his young squad has plenty of promise.
On the wrong end of a lop-sided 7-0 penalty count from pedantic Irish referee Alain Rolland in the first spell, the All Blacks, who had to wait until the 55th minute for their first penalty, struggled to weather the early Boks onslaught or match their aggressive, physical approach in a hugely intimating atmosphere at Soccer City.
After a taxing trip from Argentina, fatigue was a factor as the All Blacks stalled in first gear for much of the first spell.
Veteran Boks wing Bryan Habana, in fine form after a hat-tick last week, opened the scoring in the 13th minute, latching onto a perfect pass from captain Jean de Villiers.
Strangely, the All Blacks didn't play any rugby in the first quarter.
They went into their shells, kicking away too much possession, in a scrappy, ill-disciplined start.
This was not a reflection of their attacking prowess that was on display against the Pumas.
The Boks initially dominated up front; their scrum was powerful, their rolling maul proved a lethal weapon on three occasions.
Finally, after 25 painful minutes, the All Blacks put away the boot and stuck to their strengths - quick ball-in-hand movement, and they never looked back.
Results were immediate. Hosea Gear, who produced his best performance in a black jersey, off-loaded to Reid and he put Sam Whitelock away down the flank, the rangy lock proving unstoppable at full pace.
That settled the tourist's nerves.
Habana then turned villain when he rushed out of the line and missed a spot tackle on Dan Carter, the world's best first five-eighth sent Gear into more space before the recalled wing gave Aaron Smith a free run to the line to give the All Blacks their first lead.
After kicking two from four in his second test start, rookie Boks first five-eighth Johan Goosen, the so-called next wonder-kid of South African rugby, limped off after 34 minutes. Up stepped Elton Jantjies.
A huge cheer greeted the local Lions pivot and he responded by knocking over his first two penalties, only two miss the next two, but the Boks held a slender 16-12 half-time lead.
Whatever All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said at the interval sparked a response.
Just 20 seconds after the break, Israel Dagg broke and Ma'a Nonu finished to make a crucial statement.
You could sense the All Blacks' confidence lift. And when Conrad Smith crashed over for the fourth strike, Carter's vision, experience and, indeed, intelligence, saw the visitors control the contest from there.
Gutsy, brutal goal-line defence was required to hold out wave-after-wave of Springbok attack. Those efforts epitomised the
unrelenting character of this record-chasing All Black team.
All Blacks Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith tries; Dan Carter con 2, dropped goal, pen
Springboks Bryan Habana tries; Johan Goosen con, pen, Elton Jantjies pen 2