Cape Town - The Springboks were heroic, turning out their best performance of the Allister Coetzee era, but it still wasn't enough as they fell to a 25-24 defeat to the All Blacks in Cape Town on Saturday.
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It was a gutting loss for the Boks, who had thrown absolutely everything at the world champions.
The Boks held a 17-15 lead with 15 minutes to play, but in the end a late Damian McKenzie try shattered South African hopes.
The Boks defended like their lives depended on it, ran with aggression and intensity and just so very clearly wanted this one desperately.
It was not to be, but this performance will go a long way towards restoring faith in the national side following that 57-0 hammering in Albany three weekends ago.
From the fourth minute, when the Boks destroyed the All Blacks at scrum time, it was clear that the hosts were up for it.
The talk in the week had been about how many the Boks would lose by, but it didn't take long for the 47 342 fans crammed into Newlands to realise that this was a Test match that would not be one-sided.
The South African defence was simply massive throughout.
The All Blacks looked certain to score on two occasions in the first half, but both times the Boks put in a last-ditch tackle that made the difference.
First, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Aaron Smith combined with the slickest of interplays 5m out from the Bok line, but somehow the defence held out.
Then, on 15 minutes, when Rieko Ioane beat Elton Jantjies down the left flank, it looked like the All Blacks would get the first score of the game.
It took a monumental effort from Jesse Kriel to save the Boks as Ioane lost the ball forward over the line.
A Jantjies penalty after an All Black infringement at the breakdown had put the Boks ahead, but straight after the restart the ABs drew level through Beauden Barrett as Francois Louw and Eben Etzebeth combined for an accidental offsides.
Newlands, very quickly, believed.
The Boks were playing like men possessed - their work in the tackle and on the ground superb. They had missed 19 tackles by half-time, but even that didn't detract from what had been a courageous defensive effort.
Jantjies missed an easy chance from straight in front to put the Boks 6-3 ahead, and the Lions playmaker was at fault for the All Blacks' first try too.
With the South Africans on the attack, Jantjies looked to stab through a grubber but was charged down by Barrett.
The All Black flyhalf kicked ahead, and Ryan Crotty won the scramble over the line.
The TMO had a long, hard look to check the grounding, but the try stood as the All Blacks went 8-3 ahead with the conversion missed.
Barrett, meanwhile, was replaced by Lima Sopoaga after being sent to the changeroom for a concussion test.
There were 10 minutes of stoppage time in the first period as the Boks went in search of a reply.
They turned down three points, set up the rolling maul and threw everything at the All Blacks. Still, they couldn't score and when Sopoaga eventually kicked the ball out, 50 minutes had passed.
8-3 down when the second half started, it was important that the Boks started the second period well.
They did just that.
After a string of aggressive phases that had sucked in the All Black defence, Ross Cronje darted over to bring the house down.
That was South Africa's first try against the All Blacks in over 270 minutes of rugby, with Bryan Habana's 17th minute score in Christchurch last year the last time they had crossed the line against the New Zealanders.
Jantjies added the extras, and the Boks were 10-8 up.
After a tense few minutes, Pollard then replaced the struggling Jantjies with 25 minutes to go as Allister Coetzee turned to his bench.
Then, with the Boks sniffing blood and threatening to score, the All Blacks pounced.
Courtnall Skosan had tried an extravagant tap-pass down the right wing, but the ball went loose and fell to Ioane, who sprinted 90 metres to score. Sopoaga added the extras and the visitors went 15-10 up.
But the Boks would not lie down.
With 16 minutes left to play, they hit back. Pollard made the initial burst and he found Malcolm Marx, immense on the night. The Bok hooker then passed right to a charging Jean-Luc du Preez, who dived over as Cape Town erupted.
Pollard converted, and the Boks went into the final 15 minutes with a 17-15 lead.
It would have made for a great story - the finest in recent Springbok memory - but it was not to be.
The villan on the night was All Black fullback Damian McKenzie, who spotted a gap and had far too much pace for any of the scrambling Bok defenders.
If they were going to pull of a memorable win, they would have to overturn a 22-17 deficit with 9 minutes to play.
Pollard, meanwhile, was replaced by Jantjies, the nature of his injury unknown at the time of writing.
Substitute Damian de Allende then gifted the All Blacks three points for a late hit on Sopoaga. It took the score to 25-17, and that would prove to be a pivotal moment as De Allende was red carded.
The Boks set up a tense finish with just a couple of minutes left as Marx capped off his night by scoring from a rolling maul.
Jantjies nailed the conversion from out left, making it 25-24 in favour of the All Blacks with just a minute to go.
The Boks gave it everything in a bid to score after the hooter, but the fairytale was not to be.
South Africa 24 (3)
Tries: Ross Cronje, Jean-Luc du Preez, Malcom Marx
Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2), Handre Pollard
New Zealand 25 (8)
Tries: Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie
Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (2)
Penalty: Beauden Barrett, Sopoaga
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6, Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 David Havili