Rugby Championship

Boks, All Blacks react to marathon first half

2017-10-09 07:46
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo)

Cape Town - One of the more off-beat talking points to emerge from Saturday's Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and All Blacks at Newlands was the 50-minute first half. 

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With the Boks 8-3 down having put in a colossal defensive effort in the first period, fullback Andries Coetzee looked to put the ball out just after the hooter had gone. 

Instead, he failed to find touch, and that moment set up what would be an additional 10 minutes of first half action as neither side was prepared to run or kick the ball out and bring the first half to a close. 

First, the All Blacks had a crack at the Boks, but for most of the 10 minutes it was the Springboks in possession. 

Captain Eben Etzebeth even turned down an opportunity for three points to set up an attacking lineout, and the Boks came agonizingly close.

Eventually, the All Blacks won a penalty on the ground and this time substitute flyhalf Lima Sopoaga knocked the ball out to bring Newlands to its feet and the half to a close. 

It was a perfect testament of just how tightly contested this Test match was, with neither side wanting to give an inch. 

The All Blacks would go in to win 25-24, but this is possibly the best Springbok performance for the past two international seasons. 

"It’s probably, in the history of rugby, the longest first half I’ve seen," Bok coach Allister Coetzee said afterwards.

"It showed that we wanted to win this game badly. The decision was made and the players, without a doubt, bought into the decision of the captain. What more can you ask of a team like this?"

According to vice-captain Siya Kolisi, the motivation for the Boks to keep going actually came from the tight forwards.

"They actually asked us to kick out, because they wanted to maul," he said.

"They (the All Blacks) also wanted to keep playing, which was quite amazing. But the legs did feel it."

All Black captain Kieran Read acknowledged afterwards that the decision to keep going was probably a touch irresponsible on his behalf.

"The Boks showed their intent and I think our egos maybe got in the way of what perhaps was a smart decision," he said.

"Our guys wanted to give it back to them and hold onto the ball. It's Test match footy and it turned into a bit of a spectacle. We probably made life a bit harder for ourselves than it needed to be."

New Zealand hooker Dane Coles admitted afterwards that he was one of those players keen to keep going. 

"Both teams didn't want to give in. I think both teams were pretty keen to see who could open it up and who would score first," he said.

"But I think both teams were also pretty happy when the ball went out and we could get in the shed. It was like playing touch footy."


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