DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – New Zealand won the rugby championship for the eighth time on Saturday after rivals South Africa failed to secure bonus points and a wide winning percentage when they defeated Argentina 38-21 in Durban.
The Springboks needed a bonus point and a win of at least 39 points in the final game of the tournament to put the All Blacks in first place.
Early on Saturday, New Zealand beat Australia 40-14 in Auckland for a bonus points victory, taking 19 points to the six-round championship.
Rugby World Cup titleholders South Africa finished on 18 points, Australia on 10 and Argentina on 9, ending the most exciting Southern Hemisphere tournament since its inception a decade ago.
New Zealand regularly win championships and had a few games to spare, but that didn’t happen this season.
The All Blacks were the victims of their biggest shock, losing to Argentina for the first time at home.
“We don’t take victory for granted,” said South Africa captain and flanker Siya Kolisi.
“It is always an honor to win against a team like Argentina. We had a plan and we were close to our goal.
“We were doing well[when we were leading 17-0]and I wanted to score again, but just before half-time they scored and we were a little bit behind.
“They got off to a good start in the second half but our discipline let us down at times and we were given two yellow cards.
“The biggest thing[so far]this season is that we created a lot of chances in the games we lost.
The 45,982 crowd sold out when veteran Francois Steyn made his first fly-half start since 2008, conceding a penalty from his own half just before half-time with South Africa leading 17-0.
However, the Pumas fought back almost immediately, with scrum-half Gonzalo Beltranou scoring and winger Emiliano Bofferi scoring a turn to cut the deficit to 17–7 at half-time.
Argentina were a vastly improved side from the restart, just as they were when they lost 36-20 at home to South Africa last weekend, with flanker Juan Martín González scoring a try for Bofferi.
It was no longer a matter of whether the Springboks could overtake the All Blacks, but whether they could weather the storm in Argentina and win the game.
The success came thanks to two penalty tries, with four Argentinians and two South Africans sent to the guilt bin as Australian referee Damon Murphy repeatedly issued a yellow card.
A recalled center Matthias Moroni’s try saw Boffelli score, but with 11 minutes remaining, South Africa were ahead 24–21.
However, a second penalty try gave the home side some breathing room and replacement back Kurt-Lee Arendse crossed the line in stoppage time and the final whistle blew after Stein converted.
Stein, who won the 2007 and 2019 Rugby World Cups, put in a flawless goal-kicking performance, scoring three conversions and one penalty off four shots at the post.
Man-of-the-match man-of-the-match number 8 Jasper Wiese and the captain and Kolisi scored a try for South Africa in the first half.
Next up for the Springboks is a challenging European tour in November, with back-to-back matches against Ireland, France, Italy and England on Saturday. -AFPMore
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