Johannesburg - Coach Steve Hansen has hailed the character of his all-conquering All Blacks Saturday after they showed why they boss world rugby with a 38-27 victory over the second-ranked Springboks.
The five-try triumph at Ellis Park in Johannesburg maintained the perfect record of New Zealand in the two-year southern hemisphere Rugby Championship competition with 12 consecutive wins.
Even yellow cards for flank Liam Messam and prop Ben Franks did not upset the reigning world champions, who led 21-15 at half-time and ruthlessly exposed Springbok defensive frailties.
"The boys showed a lot of character," said Hansen, assistant to Graham Henry when the All Blacks pipped France for the 2011 World Cup in Auckland.
"We are thrilled with the win and the manner in which we got it -- two yellow cards meant we played 20 minutes with 14 men."
Hansen said a team lacking injured first-choice fly-half Dan Carter showed their mettle during an opening half in which they were regularly under pressure.
"We came through that first half pressure well, which demonstrates the mental strength of the group," he told reporters.
"In modern rugby you must have a lot of ball carriers and we had that today. Our scrum held up well, our line-outs were good, and we defended brilliantly.
"Coming to Johannesburg after all the travel and giving a performance like this can only make you proud to be a New Zealander.
"The boys relished the challenge of tackling the Springboks at a ground where we have not done well in the past and they delivered a great result."
Former Wales coach Hansen picked the second Messam try after the half-time siren sounded as a key moment of the incident-saturated showdown.
It turned a one-point deficit into a six-point half-time advantage and the coach said it was a massive psychological boost going into the change room.
"You need little moments like that in a game to keep the team ticking over. That try was a big boost for us and a big blow for the Springboks."
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer was equally proud of his team, saying they had earned the right to hold their heads up high after finishing second, nine points behind.
"This ranks among the best games I have been involved in -- we attacked superbly," he said after the fourth loss in 12 games at Ellis Park against New Zealand.
"The players gave everything and played well, but we are very disappointed with our defence in conceding five tries.
"We have conceded just over one try per game this season, but today too many players shot out of the line.
"They were too eager to make big hits."
New Zealand came to Johannesburg after defeating Australia 27-16 and 47-29, Argentina 28-13 and 33-15, and South Africa 29-15 at home