Boks' win heaps pressure on All Blacks

·3-min read

South Africa have piled more pressure on the slumping All Blacks and their besieged coach Ian Foster, grinding them down for a 26-10 win in the Rugby Championship opener.

The latest blow for New Zealand - their fifth loss in six Tests - following an historic home series loss to Ireland last month and was their biggest defeat to the Springboks for nearly 100 years.

The Springboks scored two tries at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, one at the start by wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and one right at the end by replacement back Willie le Roux as the All Blacks launched a desperate late attack from their own 22.

After congratulating the Springboks, Foster insisted there were some positives in the defeat.

"For us, I actually thought it was a step up in performance from the last series. The line-out worked well, the maul defence was good and our overall defence was pretty solid," he said.

"We perhaps just missed a little bit of timing in terms of our attack. We will have to go and look at that."

The Springboks were in control throughout and had a big territorial advantage to work with, although they finished with 14 men after Arendse was issued a red card in the 75th minute - while he was lying flat out receiving medical attention - for a highly dangerous charge in the air on Beauden Barrett.

Barrett was OK while Arendse left on a stretcher, the second Bok to do so. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk knocked himself out attempting a tackle on New Zealand wing Caleb Clarke after just 43 seconds.

South Africa shrugged off that early complication to settle into a gameplan aimed at strangling New Zealand and cutting off any chance for the All Blacks backs to get going.

It was highly effective. Arendse scored the first try in the eighth minute after a smart offload by centre Lukhanyo Am and the Springboks set about subduing the All Blacks with their scrummaging, merciless defence and persistent tactical kicking, which kept New Zealand pinned in their own half for long periods.

Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked 16 points to make the territorial advantage count.

"It was a grind," Springboks captain Siya Kolisi said. "Exactly what we wanted."

With the Boks 19-3 up the All Blacks finally broke clear of the home defence in the dying minutes with a bust by Clarke. He was dragged down just short by fullback Damian Willemse but replacement forward Shannon Frizell was on hand to score the All Blacks' only try with two minutes to go.

The consolation barely lasted a minute as Frizell dropped a pass from Sam Cane as the All Blacks tried to attack from in front of their tryline, allowing le Roux to kick ahead and flop on the ball over the line.

The margin of victory for the Springboks was their biggest over the All Blacks since 1928 and up there with New Zealand's heaviest defeats.

The All Blacks must play a second Test against South Africa next week at Ellis Park in Johannesburg -- the Boks' favorite ground -- and Foster's job is hanging by a thread, as is the future of flanker Sam Cane as the leader of the team.

Rugby's most successful team was already in the midst of its worst run in 24 years after last month's shock against Ireland and is dangerously close to its worst set of results ever.

Another loss against the world champions next Saturday would see Foster fired, New Zealand media has reported, throwing the All Blacks into some turmoil just over a year out from the Rugby World Cup in France.

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