New Zealand captain Richie McCaw achieved his 100th Test victory when his side beat South Africa 32-16 in Johannesburg, claiming the first Rugby Championship unbeaten.
South Africa dominated the first half, going into the break ahead 16-12, after dominating possession.
However, the All Black lock Brodie Retalick regathered the ball from the second half kick-off, it was spread wide with Israel Dagg and Kieran Read making breaks, before Ma’a Nonu chimed in to score.
Only 21 seconds had passed, but the game was effectively over. The All Blacks scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to record their 16th win in succession.
As a consequence, the Springboks slipped from second place to third on the international rankings, behind Australia, who defeated Argentina 19-25 in Rosario.
Going into the match, the Springboks fans were optimistic. In the previous game, the Boks had beaten Australia 31-8, to claim second place in the RC – and second ranking in the world.
The All Blacks had to travel from Argentina, where they had beaten the Pumas 54-15.
The 20-year-old flyhalf Johan Goosen had made his debut against Australia, managing the game well and showing glimpses of brilliance. Many said he was the key that would unlock the potential in the re-building Boks.
The loss to NZ has had a shattering impact in South Africa, with growing calls for coach Heyneke Meyer to be sacked – in his first season.
Conversely, Wallaby coach Robbie Deans has found breathing space, following Australia’s win over the Pumas, who failed to win a match in the RC.
On Saturday week, the Wallabies face the All Blacks in Brisbane in the final match of the Beldisloe Cup, which New Zealand has already won.
Australia beat New Zealand in Brisbane last year to claim the final Tri Nations title – the Tri Nations changed to the Rugby Championship this year, with the inclusion of Argentina.
There is some distance between New Zealand and the rest of the field, led by Australia and South Africa. But after the win in Argentina, the injury-hit Wallabies believe they have the character to rise above the odds.
Their optimism is strengthened by the form of flyhalf Kurtley Beale. The Wallaby fullback shifted to flyhalf, following an injury to Quade Cooper.
Beale was a schoolboy star at flyhalf with St Josephs College in Sydney. He failed to adapt in the Super 15 while playing with the Sydney-based Waratahs and was moved to fullback, where he established himself as an international star.
He was labelled one of the three amigos, along with Cooper and star Wallaby utility back James O’Connor, because of off-field behaviour problems. He was dropped from the starting line-up by coach Deans earlier in the tournament.
But he played well against South Africa and then Argentina, showing both composure and flair.
In Brisbane, he will oppose All Black Dan Carter, who was almost perfect against South Africa.
With incumbent Cooper still injured, Beale will relish this opportunity to prove himself against the best player in the world.
Peter Lalanabaravi has over 30 years experience as a rugby writer.