It was a tale of two captains, one elated and the other disappointed, after the All Blacks pulled off a big upset to beat the Springboks 35-23 at Ellis Park in the second Rugby Championship on Saturday night.
Due to the massive struggles that the visitors had been going through, and the superb performance from the Boks a week earlier in thumping them 26-10 in Mbombela, the All Blacks arrived in Johannesburg as the underdogs.
But a much improved performance from the visitors, coupled with the hosts putting in one of their poorest performances since going down to Australia last year, helped the All Blacks emerge victorious and ease some pressure on their beleaguered coach and players.
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“Proud is an understatement. Adversity really challenges your character and this group has got plenty of character. It’s never been a question of how much we care or how much we want it. We just needed to get a few parts of our game right,” explained a happy Sam Cane after the match.
“It was a massive challenge coming here. One of the toughest places in the world to play and the group stepped up massively, so I was extremely proud.
“We were a lot better at the breakdown tonight and we dealt with the box kicks and contestables a lot better. Our set piece was good and we defended the maul really well. So lots of little parts of our game, which is what Test footy is about, getting those little parts right so you can build pressure.
“I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been supporting us, particularly over the last month. It has been pretty challenging and we feel all of that support, so it means a lot.”
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi cut a disappointed figure, knowing that his side missed a great chance to make a statement in the competition and create a bit of history in beating their rivals three games in a row.
“The atmosphere has been out of this world every single weekend. We are just sorry we couldn’t pull it through today,” said Kolisi.
“In the first half the game was quite fast and we couldn’t really force our game plan on them. I thought they made some great plays, but we could have worked a lot harder in the first half.
“They played really well out here today. We always knew that they only need a couple of moments to make it count and they definitely did that, so congrats to Sam and his boys.”