Rugby: Intensity challenge for mighty Springboks before All Blacks rematch

South Africa's win was based on a dominant pack, ferocious defence and a pinpoint kicking game. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - The front-page headline on Sunday (Aug 7) in South Africa's biggest Afrikaans language newspaper screamed "Best in a century", after the Springboks outplayed New Zealand 26-10 in the Rugby Championship opener the day before.

It was the Rugby World Cup holders' biggest winning margin against the All Blacks since they won 17-0 in Durban in 1928 - and Rapport backed up its headline with three pages of rave reviews of the Springboks' performance.

Hooker and man-of-the-match Malcolm Marx was given 10 out of 10 for his individual efforts and six other Springboks were awarded nine out of 10, including scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, who came onto the field after just 43 seconds when Faf de Klerk was concussed.

The Springboks win heaped more pressure on All Blacks coach Ian Foster, whose charges have lost five of their last six matches, including a home series against Ireland.

But Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi were wary about proclaiming a new era of dominance against their long-time rivals.

The teams meet again at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday and the South Africans know that matching the intensity they showed in Mbombela will be a challenge.

Kolisi said the support of a packed 42,367 crowd had inspired his players, from the rousing rendition of the national anthem through to the final whistle.

"I just don't know how South African people do it," said Kolisi. "The way they turn up with everything that's going on in our country.

'Means the world to us'

"People who can still afford it, still come along and still fill up the stadium for us and it means the world to us as a team.

"It feels good, but we know the championship is not done yet. We have five more games to go but the next important one is next week."

Nienaber was cagey when asked whether the Springboks would be able to reach the same heights two weeks in a row.

"If you don't have intensity against the All Blacks, you are not going to do well," he said. "Was it the highest intensity? I don't know. I don't think we're the finished product yet."

South Africa's win was based on a dominant pack, ferocious defence and a pinpoint kicking game.

Springbok pressure forced the All Blacks to concede 12 penalties while there were only seven against the home side.

"We don't see kicking as a way to relieve pressure," said Nienaber. "We see it as a method of attack. Every single guy on the field played their role in making sure our kicking game functioned."

New Zealand's Ardie Savea (top) takes the ball off the top of the lineout during the Rugby Championships match against the Springboks in South Africa on Aug 6, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Despite the result, the under-fire Foster believed it was New Zealand's most improved performance of the year.

"In some areas we really shifted our game forward. In a game dominated by defence, we defended well but our timing was out on the attack side," he said.

"We always knew it was going to be tough, and we felt that tonight. But we've got to take some things we've made some big shifts in.

"We nullified a large part of their driving game and in that last quarter we were opening things up but started to snatch at a couple of balls, which is frustrating."

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