Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks send warning with victory over Springboks

New Zealand have their quest for a Rugby World Cup three-peat off to a perfect start, overcoming old rivals South Africa 23-13 in a torrid tournament opener in Yokohama. 

Victory means they have still never lost a pool game at the tournament - 29 straight wins in the preliminary stage. 

And it also sets the All Blacks up to finish atop Pool B, if they can overcome Canada, Italy and Namibia - none ranked in the world's top 10 teams.

The Springboks dominated the early stages of the match, winning the aerial battle and consistently forcing their rivals behind the gain line with their rush defence.

But after 20 minutes, all they had to show for their efforts as a solitary Handre Pollard penalty.

"We had to defend a bit early," admitted captain Kieran Read afterwards. "When you don't have the ball, you can't do too much."

But that changed with 17 points scored in the space of five minutes.

The All Blacks turnaround came from a turnover in their own half, with Richie Mo'unga kicking laterally to Sevu Reece and the winger leaving his marker dead for speed down the right.

When the ball came back in field, Beauden Barrett popped up to provide the final pass to George Bridge for the first try.

It was vintage All Blacks attacking rugby - a far cry from the fumbling, bumbling, stumbling attempts of the opening quarter.

They needed only a few more minutes to ram home their advantage with another sublime breakout, again initiated by a Mo'unga-Reece lateral kick.

The ball went through several pairs of bands, before Anton Lienert-Brown cut infield off his left foot, found a half gap and made ground, before offloading to lock Scott Barrett steaming up in support.

The big man, enjoying a rare start in the second row, galloped 30 metres untouched and suddenly New Zealand were ahead 17-3 into halftime.

Sam Cane was a notable absentee when the teams returned to the field, struggling to convince medical staff he had recovered from an early head knock.

He was replaced by lock Patrick Tuipulotu, with Scott Barrett moving to the side of the scrum.

Mo'unga showed his defensive prowess, when he tracked down Cheslin Kolbe, as the wing seemed certain to score, but South Africa poured onto attack and eventually flanker Pieter-Steph Du Toit crossed untouched from a ruck for a try.

The Bocks created several chances to further reduce their deficit, but somehow New Zealand hung tough, restricting their counterparts to a Pollard drop goal.

Mo'unga restored the seven-point margin with a penalty, just before he was subbed off, bringing Ben Smith into fullback and Beauden Barrett into first-five. 

Last time these two foes met resulted in a late South Africa comeback for a draw and the fates seemed to be aligning for a repeat result.

With nine minutes remaining, Beauden Barrett took the advantage out to double figures with another penalty and his side repulsed any further further attacking opportunities from the 'Boks.

"It was a heck of a test match - the full 80 minutes," reflected Read. "Fortunate just happens in those couple of moments and we were lucky to take them.

"That was probably the only difference in the game."

New Zealand now have 10 days off, before regrouping for their next outing against Canada on October 2. 

The Springboks are back in action next Saturday, when they take on Namibia - the lowers ranked team at the tournament.

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