Rugby Championship: South Africa 20-27 New Zealand

Richie McCaw
McCaw has hinted that he will retire from rugby after this year's World Cup in England
Rugby Championship: South Africa v New Zealand
South Africa: (10) 20
Tries: Le Roux, Kriel Pens: Pollard 2 Cons: Pollard 2
New Zealand: (10) 27
Tries: B. Smith, Coles, McCaw Pens: Sopoaga 2 Cons: Sopoaga 3

Richie McCaw's late try proved decisive as the All Blacks fought back to beat the Springboks 27-20 in an absorbing match at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

New Zealand were 20-17 adrift with six minutes left when McCaw darted over from a slickly-worked line-out routine.

Lima Sopoaga added the conversion and a late penalty to earn the visitors a flattering scoreline.

Willie le Roux and Jesse Kriel's tries had given the Boks hope of repeating October's win over the same opponents.

But the All Blacks once again showed a mixture of cool heads and supreme fitness to pull ahead in the closing stages and avoid their first back-to-back defeats by South Africa in six years.

The visitors have now lost just one of their past 31 matches.

Despite the loss, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer all but backed his side to win the World Cup, which begins on 18 September in England.

"The mental strength and attitude of the squad bodes well for the World Cup. The guys know they can beat anyone," he said.

"We came within inches of beating the All Blacks and the Wallabies and that is a massive improvement when you consider where we were just after the 2015 Super Rugby competition."

New Zealand struck first through a second-minute Sopoaga penalty, but did not lead again before McCaw's late score.

All Blacks' dominance of Test rugby
New Zealand have been the top-ranked Test side in the world since November 2009.
This week the All Blacks became the first side to spend a cumulative total of 10 years at the top of the world rankings. The current rankings began in September 2003.

In between, a spirited South Africa battered their way into a lead on several occasions but could never shake off the All Blacks.

Le Roux weaved through for a score as the home side racked up a 10-3 lead with 20 minutes on the clock, but winger Ben Smith, freed by Sopoaga's pass, crossed to ensure the scores were level again by half-time.

After the interval, impressive centre Kriel carved a sublime angle to put South Africa back in front again. Again, the All Blacks struck back as hooker Dane Coles barged over to level at 17-17.

Handre Pollard's penalty edged South Africa 20-17 ahead on 56 minutes and that slender advantage almost saw them home before McCaw took Codie Taylor's throw at the front of the line-out and brushed off Ruan Pienaar to score.

South Africa have now lost the first two Rugby Championship matches after slipping to a 24-20 defeat to Australia in their opening encounter.