Christchurch - Ardie Savea lived up to his star billing with a colossal try as New Zealand thrashed South Africa 41-13 to take a firm grip on the Rugby Championship in Christchurch on Saturday.
As it happened: All Blacks v Springboks
The runaway competition leaders again banked a bonus point, their fourth in four matches, to be in an almost unbeatable position in the championship with two rounds still to play.
But in the replay of last year's World Cup semi-final at Twickenham, which the All Blacks won 20-18, they again struggled to get on top in another gripping encounter between two of rugby's fiercest rivals.
They were only 15-10 ahead at half-time and did not begin to pull away until eight minutes into the second spell when Ardie Savea showed his devastating skill with the ball, handling twice in the move that set up Ben Smith's try.
Savea, starting a Test for the first time, then carried two Springboks on his back as he charged over for a try of his own and after 56 minutes, with the All Blacks ahead 29-13, the outcome was obvious.
The All Blacks touched down six times, with Ardie Savea and Smith joined by Julian Savea, Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock and TJ Perenare, while Beauden Barrett kicked four conversions and a penalty.
For South Africa, Bryan Habana scored an early try with Elton Jantjies landing a conversion and two penalties.
The Springboks had been widely written off before the game but stepped up against the All Blacks, producing a sterner defence than that presented by either Australia or Argentina before them.
After Beauden Barrett's opening penalty the All Blacks dominated territory for a long period for no reward and it was against the run of play that the Springboks scored the first try.
Taking a leaf out of Argentina's handbook from last week, Pieter-Steph du Toit charged through the All Blacks pack to get South Africa inside the All Blacks 22 where Habana sliced through for the try.
Jantjies landed the conversion to give South Africa a 7-3 lead and was then guilty of opening the way for a storming All Blacks reply.
The Springbok flyhalf dropped the kick-off and from the resulting scrum Dagg scored for New Zealand and Julian Savea crossed five minutes later.
A second foray deep into All Blacks territory saw Jantjies land a close range penalty, and the All Blacks went into the second half with a five point advantage.
Between Smith and Ardie Savea's tries, Janties landed a second penalty but the effort was starting to tell on the Springboks and the All Blacks rammed home their advantage with tries to Whitelock and Perenara in the final quarter.
The win extended the All Blacks unbeaten streak to 15 as they close in on the record of 17 consecutive wins for a tier one nation which they currently share with South Africa.
It also extended their unbeaten home run to 44 dating back to 2009 when South Africa were the last visiting team to win a Test in New Zealand with a 32-29 victory in Hamilton.
Tries: Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, TJ Perenara
Conversions: Beauden Barrett (4)
Penalty: Beauden Barrett
Try: Bryan Habana
Conversion: Elton Jantjies
Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2)
15 Ben Smith 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
15 Johan Goosen, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Jaco Kriel, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian de Allende