The Rugby Championship: New Zealand beat South Africa to title
By Alex Williams. Last Updated: October 6, 2013 12:38am
Beauden Barrett: Scored the try which clinched the Rugby Championship
New Zealand retained the Rugby Championship title after a thrilling 38-27 victory against South Africa at Ellis Park.
South Africa needed to score four tries and prevent their opponents from taking a bonus point, but the Springboks' valiant efforts ultimately fell short in Johannesburg.
Bryan Habana crossed the try-line twice early on before being forced off injured and although second-half scores from Willie Le Roux and Jean De Villiers gave the hosts hope, the All Blacks had too much firepower.
The championship was secured when Beauden Barrett ran in New Zealand's fourth try of the match, adding to two scores from Liam Messam and another from Ben Smith. Kieran Read later put the icing on the cake.
The Springboks signalled their intentions from the off as both Habana and Le Roux had dangerous runs snuffed out before an offside infringement allowed Morne Steyn to open the scoring with a penalty.
But it was the All Blacks who scored the first try against the run of play as a beautiful back-handed offload from Read set Smith free for a converted score.
The hosts did not lie down, however, and brought Ellis Park to its feet when Duane Vermeulen broke through the line before feeding Habana, who touched down under the posts.
Just moments later Habana was rampaging down the left again, chipping a kick over Smith before collecting and grounding in the corner to make it 15-7.
The 30-year-old then pulled up lame after catching a high ball in his own 22 and suddenly the Springboks' attacking spark was gone, with flanker Messam soon powering over for the visitors while Aaron Cruden's second conversion reduced the deficit to a single point.
South Africa put the pressure back on but could not penetrate the last line of defence, and it was New Zealand who struck a hammer blow when Messam rounded off a flowing move and Cruden added the extras to make it 21-15 to the visitors at half-time.
Springboks' flanker Willem Alberts had been stretchered off with a nasty-looking neck injury and New Zealand temporarily lost a back-row forward of their own when Messam was sent to the sin bin after the break, with Le Roux diving over from close range shortly afterwards.
Steyn nailed the conversion to put South Africa back in front and the home side almost scored a fourth try after a blistering, end-to-end sequence of play ended with Le Roux being stopped just short.
The away team knew that one more try would secure the championship, though, and they almost got it when Ma'a Nonu went close next to the post, but the television match official ruled that he was denied by Siya Kolisi.
Barrett kicked a penalty instead, meaning New Zealand were still just about safe when De Villiers barrelled over and Steyn missed the conversion to leave the score at 27-24 to the hosts.
But the destination of the title was confirmed when Barrett sliced his way through a tired defence to score the All Blacks' fourth try, and with it secure the all-important bonus point.
Bizarre scenes followed as referee Nigel Owens was informed that New Zealand No 16 Dan Coles was on the pitch but not the team-sheet, a matter he conceded would have to be dealt with after the match.
Even with replacement prop Ben Franks in the sin-bin the All Blacks scored again as Read crossed for a converted try.