Villain turned hero as replacement halfback Aaron Smith scored an outstanding individual try to spark the All Blacks to an 21-11 win over the Springboks in The Rugby Championship test at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night.
Smith, who had been dropped to the bench for a breach of team protocol last weekend, replaced Piri Weepu at halftime and scooted through the defence midway through the second spell for the try which broke the 8-all deadlock.
The All Blacks scored two tries to one to record their 14th test win but the Springboks had their opportunities, particularly in goal-kicking where Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and Johan Goosen kicked only two of nine attempts.
The All Blacks had been victorious in 13 consecutive tests since last year and had won 46 and drawn three of their 83 previous tests against South Africa.
That included seven wins in the eight previous tests against the Springboks in Dunedin. There was a capacity crowd of 29, 600 when the teams took the field in the covered stadium.
South Africa missed two early opportunities. Wing Bryan Habana was unable to hold an awkward pass with the line open and second five-eighths Frans Steyn missed with a long-range from almost 50m on the angle.
But, when the All Blacks infringed at a breakdown, first five-eighths Morne Steyn goaled comfortably from 36m to open the scoring after 18 minutes.
However, the All Blacks struck back immediately, hooker Andrew Hore making good metres and No.8 Kieran Read laying on the pass for fullback Israel Dagg to have a clear run to the line. First five-eighths Aaron Cruden was to the right with the conversion but it was 5-3.
Morne Steyn was to the right with a penalty from 44m and in front and the All Blacks swept back to the attack.
Frans Steyn was just under the bar with a penalty attempt from almost 10m inside his own half, a reminder of what distance he is capable of.
The Springboks were giving as good as they received in the forward exchanges, with lock Flip van der Merwe prominent, but Morne Steyn missed his second consecutive penalty attempt.
Steyn missed two other attempts at goal and the Springboks had the poor return of one success out of six to help the All Blacks lead 5-3 at halftime.
The All Blacks were fortunate to be ahead. The Springboks had 58 percent territory and forced six turnovers from the All Blacks while conceding two.
Aaron Smith subbed Piri Weepu at the halfback break as the All Blacks sought to bring more authority to their game.
Habana threatened early in the second spell but lost the ball forward in the tackle of Aaron Smith and the chance was lost.
Habana gave the Springboks the lead with a brilliant individual try eight minutes into the half. He raced from a lineout 40m out, chipped and regathered to score in the right corner. Morne Steyn missed again but South Africa led 8-5.
But Cruden kicked a neat penalty three minutes later to tie the scores at 8-all as the arm-wrestle continued.
Wing Cory Jane had been safe under the high ball for the All Blacks and made another fine take as the Springboks tried to pressurise the All Blacks' back three.
South Africa were kicking too much ball away and the All Blacks too the lead midway through the spell when Aaron Smith dummied and sidestepped through the defence from 25m out to score a gem of a try. Cruden converted and New Zealand led 15-8.
South Africa suffered another blow when replacement prop Dean Greyling was sin binned as he dived indiscriminately into a ruck.
Johan Goosen subbed the out of sorts Morne Steyn but missed with a long-range attempt from 55m to make it one goal from eight for the Springboks. But he was on target from 39m soon after and it was 15-11 with 11 minutes left.
Cruden kicked his second penalty six minutes from time and his third on the final whistle to give the All Blacks a 21-11 win.