JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - A 55-metre Patrick Lambie penalty gave South Africa a thrilling 27-25 Rugby Championship victory over New Zealand Saturday, condemning the world champions to a first defeat in almost two years.
The All Blacks had turned an 11-point second-half deficit into a one-point lead before Liam Messam fouled Schalk Burger and Lambie became an instant star with his monster kick.
Victory before a sell-out 62,000 Ellis Park crowd ended a run of five consecutive losses by the Springboks against the All Blacks, who surrendered a world record 22-match unbeaten run.
It was not the result New Zealand skipper and flanker Richie McCaw would have wished for as he made a record 134th appearance for his country.
Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard had the first chance to score six minutes into the opening half only to pull his penalty left of the post after New Zealand were punished for not rolling away from a ruck.
A couple of minutes later and the All Blacks nudged ahead as fly-half Beauden Barrett effortlessly guided a 44-metre penalty between the posts.
However, the lead proved short-lived as South Africa ran from inside their 22 and centre Jan Serfontein gave the scoring pass for scrum-half Francois Hougaard to dive over under the crossbar.
Pollard converted and the Springboks had a four-point advantage while spending most of the early minutes inside the All Blacks’ half.
Barrett trimmed the deficit to a single point with his second penalty only for the home side to respond with a second try.
Left-wing Bryan Habana broke clear, easily evaded full-back Israel Dagg, and several passes later Pollard darted over between the posts for a try he converted.
But the world champions hit back with a try from the most unlikely of situations as they gained possession from a retreating scrum.
Left-wing Julian Savea demonstrated his pace and power to carry the ball deep into Springboks territory and quick, slick passing sent centre Malakai Fekitoa over.
Barrett converted to again leave just one point between the teams in a riveting showdown staged in perfect South African spring conditions.
A one-pont lead was stretched to eight on the stroke of half-time when Pollard claimed his second try, swivelling when tackled by McCaw to dot down.
Pollard converted and South Africa ran off the pitch at half-time 21-13 ahead as they sought a rare recent win over their greatest rivals.
South Africa began the second half intent on scoring another try and skipper Jean de Villiers thought he had won a race to the touchdown with fellow centre Conrad Smith over the New Zealand try-line.
However, big-screen replays clearly showed Smith getting his hand to the ball first.
There was a measure of compensation for the Springboks soon after, though, as Pollard goaled an easy penalty kick.
The television match official was in action again just before the hour when New Zealand were convinced they had scored a pushover try after South Africa lost possession having won a line-out.
But video replays showed Springboks flanker Marcell Coetzee getting a hand to the ball before an opponent also touched it and the All Blacks had to settle for a scrum they failed to gain from.
The momentum was with the All Blacks and they finally scored again on 64 minutes when a Barrett skip pass set up Conrad Smith to send right-wing Ben Smith over and Barrett converted.
Replacement hooker Dane Coles went over in the other corner four minutes later and although Barrett missed the conversion, the All Blacks had turned an 11-point deficit into a 25-24 lead.
Then came the Lambie penalty and three years of torment for Springboks supporters was over.