BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (AFP) - New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship after South Africa and Australia drew 27-27 in Bloemfontein on Saturday (Sept 30).
The deadlock left the All Blacks with an unassailable six-point lead in the standings ahead of their penultimate match away to Argentina later Saturday.
Elton Jantjies had a last-minute chance to win the match for the Springboks, but pulled a difficult penalty from just outside the 22.
It was the second successive draw between the teams after they finished 23-23 in Perth this month.
South Africans in the 30,000 crowd, including world 400-metre record-holder and Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk, were hoping for a drastic improvement after a 57-0 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks in Auckland this month.
But a draw was fair reflection of a close encounter in which neither team gained a distinct advantage in any phase.
Australia led 13-10 at half-time and their backs looked more threatening while the South African scrum functioned well.
South Africa had much more of the ball in the early stages only to fall behind after 11 minutes to an Australian try plotted on the training ground.
A dummy run by Tevita Kuridrani and an inside pass from Bernard Foley created a clear path to the tryline for Israel Folau.
Foley converted from in front of the posts to raise his Test tally to 501 points – only the fourth Wallaby to achieve the feat.
South Africa levelled on 19 minutes when Jantjies converted a try by Ruan Dreyer, who shrugged off a tackle to barge over between the posts.
Foley and Jantjies exchanged penalties before the Wallaby fly-half slotted another to earn his team a three-point half-time advantage.
Tempers flared just before the break when Folau high-tackled Dillyn Leyds, then pulled his hair, triggering a mini-brawl in which Springboks skipper Eben Etzebeth was involved.
New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe settled for warning Etzebeth and rival captain Michael Hooper.
It was a disappointing opening half for the Springboks, who had more ball, but many attacks were lateral and predictable against a well-organised defence.
The second half started with a try fest as Jan Serfontein and Courtnall Skosan scored for the Springboks and Marika Koroibete for the Wallabies.
All the tries were converted by Jantjies and Foley to leave South Africa 24-20 on 51 minutes.
Rugby League convert Koroibete scored his second try in his first start and Foley added the extra points to nudge the visitors into a three-point lead entering the final quarter.
Jantjies brought the teams level with a penalty 10 minutes from time, but could not grab victory in the final minute, leaving New Zealand to celebrate a fifth title in six attempts.