South Africa reclaimed the no 1 ranking from New Zealand after a pulsating Rugby Championship match on the Australian Gold Coast with a tantalising 83rd minute penalty by Elton Jantjies to beat their All Blacks arch rivals 31-29.
The Springboks endured a gloomy tour of Australia, losing three matches on the trot. This was after the highs of a British and Irish Lions tour win and kicking off their Rugby Championship with two wins against Argentina.
They started the Australasian tour with back to back defeats to the Wallabies, which culminated in the All Blacks taking the no 1 spot in the World Rankings going into the 100th Test match between the two sides.
The All Blacks defeated the Boks 19-17 in the 100th test match between the two sides, which made it three losses for the World Champions.
In the aftermath of that defeat and in the weeks leading up to the 100th Test, the Boks were slated in the world media as being “boring,” having no tactical acumen, a game plan that was unattractive and relying too much on the kick-and-chase game.
The final match between the Springboks and All Blacks was set to be an epic affair. It was in this match that the Boks had to prove to everyone that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Belief, brutal strength, bloody-mindedness, ball skills, breakdown bastardry, and pure brawn were the key factors in turning around their fortunes and playing like a world champion team.
The Bok triumph in the last match was built on the foundation of Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Duane Vermeulen, Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith and Bongi Mbonambi up front, who tormented the opposition with brute force.
That laid a perfect attacking platform for the backs, with South Africa on the day, balancing the kicking and attacking game perfectly.
The main turning point was the substitutions. First the entire front row went on to the field in the 38th minute and the tactical substitutions of bringing in Elton Jantjies in at pivot for Sbu Nkosi, and Frans Steyn at fullback for Willie le Roux, who had a terrible game.
Elton Jantjies turned hero after slotting the final penalty. His contribution was immense after coming on as a sub, assisting in Makazole Mapimpi’s try, slotting two penalties and a drop goal.
It was probably the best performance by the Springboks in this season’s Rugby Championship, particularly producing second half performances in their last two matches that were a difference from teams of the past, who could not play past the 80th minute.
With the win the Springboks are firmly placed back at the top of the World rankings and will be heading to their end of the year tour brimming with confidence and with renewed energy after spending two weeks with their families.