South Africa 26-10 New Zealand: Pollard masterclass guides Springboks to victory

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Handre Pollard stepped up to the plate in the absence of Faf de Klerk to kick South Africa to an opening 26-10 win over New Zealand in the 2022 Rugby Championship.

The Springboks saw their scrum-half taken off on a stretcher inside two minutes at Mbombela Stadium after a head knock to leave them light of one of their key creative forces.

But fly-half partner Pollard unfurled a judiciously managed game plan amid a raggedly entertaining encounter that saw the world champions get their campaign off to a victorious start.

Jacques Nienaber was left to sweat on what could have been a tough evening when De Klerk was forced from the field after he collided with the knee of winger Caleb Clarke.

Despite the loss of their influential half-back, an energised Springboks side still struck first, with Kurt-Lee Arendse and Lukhanyo Am's one-two combination off a box kick earning a breakaway try for the former.

A penalty against the All Blacks for coming off their feet allowed Pollard to add three more from the tee at the quarter-game mark, before Beauden Barrett responded with a kick in kind five minutes before the break.

The need to establish some equilibrium pressed at New Zealand after the interval, but they were unable to snatch at the chances afforded them by an open encounter, and Pollard was on hand to convert another penalty less than a quarter-hour into the second half.

Seven minutes later, the fly-half slotted a field goal in the pocket to stretch the hosts' lead well into double digits, and another from the tee with eight minutes left seemingly wrapped things up for the Springboks.

There was to be an unfortunate late incident to mar matters, as Arendse was shown a red card for taking Barrett out in the air, with the former carried off after the collision and the latter managing to leave on his own two feet.

The man advantage allowed a late breakaway try for Shannon Frizell to cut the deficit to single digits, but it was ultimately too little too late for the All Blacks as Willie Le Roux nabbed a response following a loss of possession inside their own 22-area at the final hooter.

Springboks make modern history

Wins have been hard to come by in recent years for South Africa against the All-Blacks, but this result means they have recorded consecutive victories over them for the first time since 2009.

With their World Cup defence in France looming, it represents a major result for the reigning champions as they bid to make it back-to-back triumphs on the biggest stage of all next year.

All Blacks hit 24-year-low

Defeat against the Springboks meanwhile condemns New Zealand to a third straight loss, on the back of consecutive defeats against Ireland earlier this year, and takes them to a low point in modern rugby.

They have not lost a trio of Test matches back-to-back since 1998, when they went five games without a win against Australia and South Africa during July and August. Coupled with five losses in their last six games, they need to rediscover their mojo fast.

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