In the fourth and pivotal round of the 2013 Rugby Championship it was a case that South Africa won the battle but lost the war in a hugely physical competition at Eden Park on Saturday.
The All Blacks came away from the game as eventual winners, with a convincing score line of 29-15.
However, the talking after the game was reserved for the abundance of yellow cards given out by referee Roman Poite, rather than the four tries to two victory for the men in black.
The game was an incredible physical affair, with more than enough blood shed by the All Blacks, as a number of Springboks hammered into the New Zealand side.
New Zealand’s biggest casualty was fly half Dan Carter, who having only just returned to the side, dislocated his shoulder after a strong tackle from Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis. Immediately after the tackle, referee Poite showed du Plessis a yellow card believing that he was offside. However, the IRB have later made a statement saying that the decision was “incorrect.”
The IRB said: “"Just as players and coaches make mistakes, the decision was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials.
"The officials, having reviewed the match, fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of law.
"All match official performances are thoroughly reviewed and assessed by the IRB and are considered when appointments are made for future Test matches."
As the game continued, early in the second half du Plessis was again shown the yellow card for using his forearm whilst trying to fend off a tackle.
Although the incident was a definite infringement, a number of other referees would have been happy to award just a penalty. However, instead, a second yellow was shown to the South African hooker, removing him from the field and subsequently spoiling what was a highly competitive clash.
Talking Rugby Union’s Southern hemisphere correspondent, Scotty Donaldson, added his thoughts on the game: “It is never nice to see bloodshed in a rugby match, but these incidents were hardly surprising given the physical element that the Springboks brought to the game. The All Blacks dressing room must have resembled a casualty ward after the game, with Sam Cane, Dan Carter, Israel Dagg, Liam Messam and Julian Savea leaving the field with various injuries.
“The All Blacks will definitely have their depth tested following this match. The amazing thing is that the Springboks didn't seem to get many injuries compared with the All Blacks.”
The Springboks, although going down on the day, were very impressive; the stand out player was du Plessis who an incredible game despite his game-changing send off. The rest of the South African pack also had an impressive game; particularly the young Eben Etzebeth.
It is difficult to predict how the game would have panned out should both teams have had a full side for its entirety. However, although South Afric were without du Plessis for a large portion of the game, towards the end of the match both Kieran Read and Ma’a Nonu were in the sin bin for New Zealand.
Beaden Barrett impressed greatly from the bench, whilst Sam Cane and big Brodie Retallick were the best All Blacks. Also, despite his yellow card, the newly appointed Captain, Kieran Read, scored a brace of tries and had an impressive game.
The match was a real ‘game of two halves’ which New Zealand deserved to win. Although South Africa were unlucky to lose hooker du Plessis to a red card, they travelled to Eden Park with the intention of playing a strong, aggressive and physical style of rugby, which can always result in a number of things going wrong.
In the rounds other game Australia recorded their first of the competition, beating Argentina 14-13 in a disappointing game. The conditions in Perth were terrible, with the rugby not far behind.
When the game finally kicked into action in the second half as the two teams matched each other and the Wallabies only just managed to hold off a very fast finishing Argentina. The wet weather didn’t help the game, but there is no getting away from the fact that the two teams will have to battle out for the wooden spoon in a couple of weeks.
In two weeks’ time South Africa will host Australia in Cape Town, whilst New Zealand will travel to Argentina to face the Pumas in La Plata.