The World Champions have gone to back-to-back in The Rugby Championship, with a 38-27 win over the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to give the All Blacks their 12th title in the tournament overall.
The game started with a lot more tactical thrust than expected, the physical battle that was initially predicted didn’t eventuate to the level that was thought, and when Ben Smith crossed the line for the first try in the 11th minute the crowd was silenced as the All Blacks wing broke the competition record with his eighth try in 2013 - breaking the mark set by Bryan Habana and Christian Cullen.
But the Springboks would not yield, and two quick fire tries to Habana in three minutes turned the game on its head making it 12-7 after the first quarter.
Habana would not be the only double scorer, with Liam Messam notching two tries to make it 21-15 at halftime for the All Blacks.
The direct onslaught that the hosts promised was delivered, but the All Blacks were able to play their usual measured game in the first half despite the Springboks scoring two of their four required tries.
It was clear that the All Blacks forwards were not being cowered at Ellis Park, but by the same token the Springbok back division was showing the same thrust as their decorated counterparts.
The defending champions however had scored three tries in the opening 40 minutes to ensure they had one hand on the trophy, with New Zealand needing just one more try to ensure they claimed The Rugby Championship.
When Liam Messam was sent from the field early in the second half the visitors would have had a moment of uncertainty, especially when wing Willie Le Roux crossed the line a minute later to give the Springboks their chance while closing the gap to within a score.
Jean de Villiers broke the line to score to give the world’s second best team a chance, before the All Blacks secured the game.
Aaron Cruden was substituted with Beauden Barrett, and the young Hurricanes playmaker that replaced Dan Carter in the corresponding match in New Zealand to make such an impression scored the tournament breaker in the 61st minute.
Not only did he score the fourth try to give the All Blacks the overall championship, but converted number eight Kieran Read’s try three minutes later to emphasise the win.
Replacement prop Ben Franks was sent to the bin with a yellow card with the final quarter to play, ensuring that the eventual champions played 20 minutes of the match with just 14 men.
The Springboks were able to close down the game boasting superior possession and territory, but the match was played with a positive and enthusiastic tempo, not quite the brutal arm wrestle that some were predicting after the Eden Park match, allowing the All Blacks to close out the game as they have in all their contests throughout the competition.
The eleven point win ensure the All Blacks finish with 28 competition points, giving them back-to-back titles for The Rugby Championship, their 12th tournament title overall and a record 12 straight wins in the competition – while securing the number one position in the IRB rankings.
The Springboks, who will hold second spot in the world, will finish The Rugby Championship in 2013 in second position.
It is just the fourth victory for an All Blacks side at Ellis Park in 12 attempts.