New Zealand summon late magic to ease pressure on embattled coach Ian Foster

·24-min read
New Zealand summon late magic to ease pressure on embattled coach Ian Foster - AP
New Zealand summon late magic to ease pressure on embattled coach Ian Foster - AP
  • Two late tries help All Blacks get back to winning ways

  • Visitors down with 10 minutes to go after series of defeats

  • Sam Cane overjoyed after side shows 'huge character' at Ellis Park

New Zealand upset the form book with a famous victory over South Africa to relieve the pressure on head coach Ian Foster.

Whether this significant win in Johannesburg has bought Foster more time remains to be seen but this was the All Blacks’ best performance since they beat Ireland in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. This may not be a vintage New Zealand side but the way they turned the tables on the world champions in their own backyard was a sight to behold. There have been far better All Blacks XVs than this one but it is doubtful whether there has ever been a more courageous performance from a Kiwi side.

The All Blacks got taken to the cleaners physically in their series defeat to Ireland, and during last weekend’s heavy defeat to the Springboks. Over the past two months their pack has been labelled soft while their attack has been heavily criticised. Forwards coach John Plumtree and attack coach Brad Mooar paid the ultimate price for these failures, getting shown the door by Foster. And whatever new forwards guru Jason Ryan is doing in training is undoubtedly working because the All Blacks matched the world champions in every aspect be it the set-piece, the driving lineout, the kicking game, and most importantly the collisions.

Before kick-off reports in New Zealand indicated Foster would get the boot even if he led his side to victory. Whether this sensational performance has made the New Zealand Rugby Union change its mind is unclear, but the selection of props Ethan de Groot, and Tyrel Lomax along with recalling blindside Shannon Frizell, and outside-half Richie Mo’unga proved to be masterstrokes.

Foster admitted after the match that he did not know if the win would be enough to save his job. "I've got no idea. I'm just going to enjoy tonight," Foster said. "There's no doubt it's been a pretty stressful time. We've been trying to find our feet as a team. "The stress has been good for me, I think I lost one kilogram over the last week, so in a couple more weeks I'll be in good shape."

One player who typified New Zealand’s performance was captain Sam Cane who led from the front and put in a mammoth shift at the breakdown. Cane has been ridiculed by pundits of late, but he was a proud man after the final whistle.

New Zealand's team captain Sam Cane (C-R) holds the Freedom Trophy after winning against South Africa in a 2022 Rugby Championship match held at the Ellis Park Stadium - KIM LUDBROOK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
New Zealand's team captain Sam Cane (C-R) holds the Freedom Trophy after winning against South Africa in a 2022 Rugby Championship match held at the Ellis Park Stadium - KIM LUDBROOK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Through adversity it really challenges your character, but this group has got plenty of character,” said Cane. “It’s never been a question of how much we care or how much we want it, but we just needed to get a few parts of our game right.

“It was a massive challenge coming here. It’s one of the toughest places in the world to play but group stood up massively.

“We were a lot better at the breakdown, and we dealt with the box kicks a lot better. Our set-piece was good, and we defended their maul really well.

“Test footy is about getting the little parts of your game right time and time again so you can build pressure.”

From the very first minute it was abundantly clear New Zealand had refused to read the pre-match script which read something like; turn up, get smashed physically, and lose by 20 points. They laid down their marker early doors with a pinpoint accurate cross-kick from David Havili taken by Ardie Savea who raced up-field before brought down inches short of the try line.

Damian Willemse, who was the last defender, had no choice but to illegally kill the ball which earned the full-back 10 minutes in the sin bin.

New Zealand had finally found their mojo, and after a tremendous break down the middle from Caleb Clarke, the ball was recycled for Will Jordan to put Cane over at the corner. The All Blacks were now full of confidence, and Clarke was also the architect of their second try with another powerful burst before impressive hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho powered over from short range.

But South Africa weren’t about to accept to defeat and hit straight back with a try of their own. After a well-worked driving lineout a sensational long pass from Willie Le Roux found Lukhanyo Am on the wing who smashed past Clarke to score South Africa’s first try with Handre Pollard converting from the touchline. Pollard brought the Springboks back to within a score on the stroke of half-time with a monster penalty from 55 metres out.

Pollard and Richie Mo’unga exchanged penalties, but the turning point came when Willemse’s try got ruled out after Jaden Hendrikse was adjudged to have blocked an All Blacks defender from tackling Am. Mo’unga nailed the penalty, but South Africa hit straight back. Malcolm Marx, who remarkably wasn't selected to start this Test, stole the ball in New Zealand’s 22 before a phenomenal long pass from Willemse allowed Makazole Mapimpi to stroll over unopposed at the far left-hand corner. Pollard nailed the touchline conversion to make it a one-point game with just 20 minutes remaining.

Beauden Barrett was sent to the sin bin for a cynical off the ball tackle on Hendrikse which allowed Pollard to kick the hosts into the lead for the first time in the game. But this was New Zealand’s day with a sensational break from deep from Rieko Ioane sparking a try for Havili before Scott Barrett sealed a famous victory with a late try from short range.

New Zealand's lock Scott Barrett reacts during the Rugby Championship international rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park - PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images
New Zealand's lock Scott Barrett reacts during the Rugby Championship international rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park - PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images

“The last few weeks we’ve had as a team has been really difficult,” said official man of the match Ioane. “It’s hard when you are trying to put things together as a team and it’s not just working out.

“It just confirms our teams belief in each other. There’s a lot of doubters back home as well but that’s always going to be there.

“We know how good we can be, so we are just hugely proud of our effort.”

Match details

Scores: 0-3 Mo’unga pen, 0-8 Cane try, 0-13 Taukei’aho try, 0-15 Mo’unga con, 5-15 Am try, 7-15 Pollard con, 10-15 Pollard pen, 13-15 Pollard pen, 13-18 Mo’unga pen, 13-21 Mo’unga pen, 18-21 Mapimpi try, 20-21 Pollard con, 23-21 Pollard pen, 23-26 Havili try, 23-28 Mo’unga con, 23-33 Barrett try, 23-35 Mo’unga try. Sin-bin: D Willemse

South Africa: D Willemse; J Kriel (W le Roux 9), L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, J Hendrikse (H Jantjies 76); O Nche (S Kitshoff 36), J Dweba (M Marx 30), F Malherbe (V Koch 51), E Etzebeth, L de Jager (F Mostert 51), S Kolisi (K Smith 51), P du Toit, D Vermeulen (J Wiese 36).

New Zealand: J Barrett (B Barrett 61); W Jordan, R Ioane (T Va’I 77), D Havili, C Clarke; R Mo’unga, A Smith (F Christie 68); E de Groot (G Bower 51), S Taukei’aho (C Taylor 56), T Lomax (F Newell 55),  S Whitelock, S Barrett, S Frizell (R Ioane 61), S Cane (Q Tupaea 69), A Savea. Sin-bin: B Barrett

Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)

All Blacks get back to winning ways - as it happened

06:20 PM

A very happy Sam Cane speaks...

On his emotions after that win...

"Proud's an understatement. Through adversity it challenges your character, this group has a lot of character, we just had to get a few parts of our game right and the [boys] stepped up massively."

On how it's been over he past few weeks...

"The last month has been pretty challenging. it means a lot the support we've got."

On what went right for the All Blacks today...

"We're a lot better at the breakdown tonight and dealt with their kicks better. Lots of little parts of our game were better, I am massively stoked."

06:17 PM

Siya Kolisi speaks...

"We're sorry we couldn't win today. I think the game was very fast in the first half we could have worked harder, they played well so congratulations to them."

06:16 PM

Rieko Ioane speaks....

"It's been hard for the past few weeks, but today we stuck at it and got it done at one of the hardest places to come  and win.  It confirms what we can do, we know there are doubters but's its a great win."

06:09 PM

FULL-TIME: South Africa 23-35 New Zealand

That was impressive from the All Blacks, they were down on the scoreboard, a man down on the pitch and all the momentum was with the Springboks. But from nowhere they summoned a bit of magic and guts and two late tries got them back to winning ways. It was, overall, a deserved victory and one that made for compelling viewing. Never write off the All Blacks when they have their backs to the wall.

06:07 PM

TRY FOR NEW ZEALAND!! (Scott Barrett)

South Africa 23-35 New Zealand

The All Blacks are on the South Africa line can they seal victory here?

YES THEY CAN!!  Scott Barrett goes over from close range to get the Kiwis back to winning ways...Mo'unga adds the extras and that's the match.

06:02 PM

76 mins: South Africa 23-28 New Zealand   

The Boks have the ball, they're on the halfway line and the All Blacks turn the ball over! Huge moment from Whitelock...and Beauden Barrett returns the the pitch.

06:00 PM

TRY FOR NEW ZEALAND!!! (Havili)

South Africa 23-28 New Zealand

Ioane does his best to produce that moment of magic as the wing dances down the left flank after good work by the ABs' backline. He makes a good 40 yards. That gets the visitors into the hosts' 22, they are picking up the tempo and handling well. Savea does brilliantly, he's had a huge game, to offload to David Havili who stretches for the line and scores. What a score and what a game...

05:56 PM

70 mins: South Africa 23-21 New Zealand   

The Boks are putting the squeeze on here, it's hard to see how the All Blacks get back in this without a moment of magic. They're a man down and staring at a sixth defeat in seven.

05:54 PM

PENALTY FOR SOUTH AFRICA!! (Pollard)

South Africa 23-21 New Zealand  

Pollard slots home the three points and the hosts are in front with about 13 minutes left.

05:52 PM

67 mins: South Africa 20-21 New Zealand 

Not what the All Blacks wanted - Beauden Barrett is shown a yellow  for playing Hendrikse off the ball while he was in a position to perhaps chase down a ball and score. It's a penalty for the hosts and they can go in front for the first time this match.

05:49 PM

64 mins: South Africa 20-21 New Zealand 

New Zealand are absorbing a lot of pressure this half. They need to somehow get on the front foot here or you can only see it going one way...

05:47 PM

62 mins: South Africa 20-21 New Zealand

How to ruin a fantastic contest? Indulge in a Mexican Wave...not sure why the crowd want to do that when the entertainment on the pitch is everything you could ask for in a Test match...fools. (rant over...)

05:44 PM

60 mins: South Africa 20-21 New Zealand

What a contest this is - a quarter left and it's a one-point game. You think the momentum is with the hosts.

05:44 PM

TRY FOR SOUTH AFRICA!!!! (Mapimpi) 

South Africa 20-21 New Zealand  

What a game this is turning out to be. No more than a minute after his try was ruled out Mapimpi goes over in the very same corner after the restart that ultimately saw Willemse float a brilliant pass out to the left wing - excellent vision and execution - and he made no mistake scoring from 15 yards out.

05:41 PM

PENALTY FOR NEW ZEALAND! (Mo'unga) 

South Africa 13-21 New Zealand  

Salt is rubbed into the wounds as the All Blacks No.10 slots home the penalty. What could have been a two-point deficit is actually now an eight-point lead for the visitors.

05:39 PM

57 mins: South Africa 13-18 New Zealand

There's nothing much for the All Blacks to worry about with Lukhanyo Am trotting inside his own half, but then the Boks star shows a pair of twickle toes, breaking through the All Blacks and making 40 yards in the process before flighting a long pass to Mapimpi who goes over unopposed to score a great try? BUT DOES HE?

The officials go back to the break and conclude, fairly, that there was an obstruction so the try, much to a raucous Ellis Park's frustration, is chalked off.

To rub salt into the wounds it's a penalty to the All Blacks...

05:33 PM

54 mins: South Africa 13-18 New Zealand   

It's all South Africa at the moment, they're encamped in the ABs' 22 until the visitors turn the ball over and they can breathe a sigh of relief as they kick the danger away.

05:31 PM

52 mins: South Africa 13-18 New Zealand 

South Africa are in the ABs' 22, they move the ball down the line to the right flank, Am does brilliantly before flicking the ball inside, it comes off a Kiwi leg before Willemse touches down. It's given as a try BUT the replay shows Am's foot was in touch before he passed and it's chalked off.

05:26 PM

PENALTY FOR NEW ZEALAND! (Mo'unga)

South Africa 13-18 New Zealand  

Mo'unga restores the five-point lead they All Blacks enjoyed at half-time.

05:25 PM

46 mins: South Africa 13-15 New Zealand 

Missed lineout from the ABs but it's somehow rescued at the back by, I think, Sam Whitelock. Then there are a few handbags, after a late hit on Aaron Smith, that eventually die down...The South African, Jasper Wiese,  is penalised for that hit and it's a penalty for the visitors.

Mo'unga goes for the points.

05:21 PM

PENALTY FOR SOUTH AFRICA! (Pollard)

South Africa 13-15 New Zealand  

Pollard doesn't miss those - in front of the posts - and the 15-point deficit is now just two...

05:20 PM

42 mins: South Africa 10-15 New Zealand

The hosts have all the ball from the restart and they are keeping the ball alive well, working through the phases until the ABs intercept in their own 22. BUT there was an infringement and the Boks have a penalty.

The Boks forwards are doing all the hard work up front and it's paying off so far this half - early days, but...

05:16 PM

40 mins: South Africa 10-15 New Zealand

Back under way at Ellis Park. Another HUGE 40 mins for the All Blacks...

05:13 PM

Am's try has brought the hosts back into this

Am  - REUTERS
Am - REUTERS

05:02 PM

HALF-TIME: South Africa 10-15 New Zealand

The All Blacks needed to make a statement early on and for 35 minutes they did that here, deservedly taking a 15-0 lead, taking on the Boks pack and coming out on top. But the last five minutes of the half saw the hosts come back into it and they go into the break only five point back of the visitors.

05:00 PM

PENALTY FOR SOUTH AFRICA! (Pollard)

South Africa 10-15 New Zealand  

As the clock winds down South Africa have a penalty. It's just inside the ABs' half and Pollard decides to go for the posts rather than the corner. It's a long kick but that doesn't bother the Bok as he nails it. Wonderful stuff.

04:55 PM

TRY FOR SOUTH AFRICA!! (Am)

South Africa 7-15 New Zealand

Great try from the hosts. They pass the ball down the backline within sight of the ABs' 22, the ball comes to Am and his still has plenty of work to do. But he makes light work of Clarke before touching down in the right corner. That was a vital score for the Boks just before the break.

04:52 PM

TRY FOR NEW ZEALAND!! (Taukei'aho)

South Africa 0-15 New Zealand

It's all New Zealand at the moment. Clarke is tackled high with the line in sight, there's an advantage being played BUT they don't need it as they keep on taking on the Boks' forwards and the hooker, Samisoni Taukei'aho, bashes over from two yards. Nothing short of what the visitors deserve. Mo'unga splits the uprights this time and this is a good lead for the under-fire XV.

04:49 PM

32 mins: South Africa 0-8 New Zealand         

The All Blacks are looking strong and are well worth this lead. The passes are sticking in a way they didn't last week and you think they'd want to get at least one more score before the break to make good on this current dominance.

04:47 PM

TRY FOR NEW ZEALAND! (Sam Cane)

South Africa 0-8 New Zealand

Sam Cane goes over in the right corner. It starts with a wee dart from Smith, Caleb Clarke makes up metres before the ball goes right and Cane makes no mistake from close range. Mo'unga misses the extras from the right touchline.

04:44 PM

PENALTY FOR NEW ZEALAND!

South Africa 0-3 New Zealand   

Mo'unga makes no mistake with the kick - inside the Boks 22 and the visitors have a deserved lead.

04:42 PM

25 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand         

Great play from the ABs Ioane and Jordan bounce down the right touchline in a great breakout for the visitors. That's what this game is crying out for. The hosts have infringed off quick ruck ball (offside) and it's a penalty for the ABs.

04:39 PM

22 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand       

Penalty for the Boks in the ABs' half and they kick for the corner.

They win the resulting lineout BUT  it wasn't straight and the ABs as breathe a sigh of relief. The Boks' lineout isn't working as it should...

04:36 PM

What does pride come before?

A confident South Africa fan - REUTERS
A confident South Africa fan - REUTERS

04:35 PM

19 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand       

This game is crying out for a bit of individual brilliance, can Richie Mo'unga provide it? No, he cannot as his cheeky kick (he tried a little dink over the onrushing Boks backline) is chased down.

04:33 PM

16 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand     

The ABs have increased their intensity, compared to last week, at the breakdown. It's still a bit of an arm wrestle though...

04:31 PM

12 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand     

Scrum for the ABs 15 yards from their own line. They break off the back and are safely in the Boks' half. This match is somewhat attritional at the moment...

04:26 PM

10 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand   

Jordie Barrett is put under pressure with a huge up and under (no shock there) from Hendrikse and takes brilliantly. The ABs were dominated by the Boks' kicking last week. That take will give the visitors a lot of confidence.

04:24 PM

8 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand   

Hectic here - the Boks intercept through  Pieter Steph du Toit and they are on the All Blacks' line. They cannot touch down and the visitors can kick the trouble away. It's all happening here at the moment.

04:23 PM

6 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand 

The Boks defend well and kick long for some much-needed respite.

04:21 PM

5 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand 

New Zealand kick for touch but cannot create anything from the resulting lineout. However, there was an infringement and the ABs have another penalty. They're three yards from the Springboks line and opt for the scrum and the Boks are man down for the next 10 minutes. Damian Willemse shown the yellow for not rolling away.

04:19 PM

2 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand

Boks hooker Bongi Mbonambi infringes and the put in goes the ABs' way...The Kiwis pass the ball down the line before a stray pass goes straight out.

Freom the resulting lineout the ABs win the ball. The visitors build up through the phases and deservedly win a penalty in the hosts' 22 after a great attacking kick from Havili finds Savea.

04:14 PM

2 mins: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand

Early knock-on from the visitors and an early chance for the Boks pack to lay down a marker.

04:14 PM

1 min: South Africa 0-0 New Zealand

We're under way in Joburg...after a huge plane does a flyover a la 1995, another match the All Blacks would rather forget.

04:11 PM

It's Haka time

It's led by Aaron Smith and the hosts stand together to stare it down.

04:08 PM

A huge 80 minutes coming up for the All Blacks

It's now time for the national anthems.

I'm a huge fan of both but 'Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika is a rousing favourite of mine...and, as you'd expect it's sung with gusto and fervour here.

04:00 PM

The teams are about to walk onto the pitch

One of the cathedrals of world rugby is Ellis Park and one in which the All Blacks must find their mojo and fast...no easy task...

03:55 PM

How they line up

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse; 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi; 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse; 1 Ox Nche, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 7 Pieter Steph du Toit, 8 Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Hershel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett; 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke; 10 Richie Mo'unga, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Ethan de Groot, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 4 Sam Whitelock, 5 Scott Barrett, 6 Shannon Frizell, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 8 Ardie Savea.

Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 George Bower, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa'i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Quinn Tupaea.

03:53 PM

New Zealand were physically bullied and beaten by the Boks last week

But they also lost the aerial battle with South Africa half-backs Jaden Hendrikse and Handre Pollard causing mayhem with their kicking game.

Beauden Barrett, who starts on the bench today,  insists New Zealand will be better prepared for it this time around but insists the All Blacks must do more to protect their team-mates under the high ball.

"It's something we expected from South Africa in terms of the high ball collision and contest," he said. "I don't think they'll change anything. We'll continue to be courageous and get up."

03:39 PM

So, what's gone wrong with the All Blacks?

Five defeats in six is almost unheard of, they've slipped to fifth in the world rankings and to say all is not well with the side is a huge understatement.

Here's what David Moffett, the former chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union, had to say when speaking to Telegraph Sport, outlining his six-point plan to save rugby in New Zealand.

“Graham Henry was on the selection panel, and he had a lot of sway. He should never have been on it because there’s a 'jobs for the boys' culture in New Zealand so he went for his mate Foster. The primary reason Henry should not have been on this panel is because nobody can hold him to account as he doesn’t hold a position with the NZRU."

READ:  The six-point plan to save New Zealand rugby

The All Blacks on their way to defeat last week  - GETTY IMAGES
The All Blacks on their way to defeat last week - GETTY IMAGES

03:17 PM

Sam Whitelock calls on All Blacks to 'nail the basics' in must-win match against Springboks

For All Blacks fans defeat is never an option but going into today's Test against South Africa 'must win' barely covers it.

A loss to the Springboks at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg today, would be New Zealand's sixth defeat in their past seven matches - something that would be as close to a national catastrophe as is possible when it comes to sport and the rugby-mad nation.

Victory is a must and lock Sam Whitelock is sure he knows what he and his men have to do get back to winning ways: nail the basics.

Last week's 26-10 loss was their biggest against the Boks in 94 years, which has placed the side, and in particular coach Ian Foster, under immense pressure.

"I haven't had this many losses in a such few games (in my career), but I always look at myself first," Whitelock told reporters on Friday. "Where can I be better on and off the field. There are always things to improve on, whether that is skills-based, fitness or a mental thing.

"There is always pressure and outside noise. The main thing for me as a senior player in this team is to sort myself out first. To train well to set myself up to play well."

The All Blacks were second best in every facet of the game last weekend, but Whitelock says they have spotted some weaknesses in the Boks.

"There are a couple of things we have identified that we can be better at, opportunities that we have seen. I won't tell you what they are, but hopefully we can go out there and exploit those weaknesses," he said.

"They have a good scrum, a good maul. They are big strong boys and they love to create momentum. We have to stop that, it is easier speaking about that than doing it, but we have to make sure we don't give them an opportunity to do that.

"One of the biggest things is our discipline, we can't give away silly penalties so they are getting opportunities to kick into corners and set up the rolling maul."

New Zealand have suffered from slow starts in recent tests and Whitelock said that is another area they must improve.

"Going out there and executing straight away is something we have spoken about this week. South Africa are a good side and they do squeeze you if they get in front. We don't want to give them a seven-point head start," he said.

"We have to get better from where we were. There were some improvements last week, but at the same time there are things we didn't quite nail. You have to nail the basics."

Stay here to find out whether the All Blacks can get back to winning ways or stumble ever closer to a national crisis.