Rugby World Cup 2019: Five big things from All Blacks win over Springboks

OPINION: Scheduling such a mouthwatering clash so early in the Rugby World Cup was bound to throw up some questions that may have repercussions later in the tournament.

The All Blacks showed considerable poise to weather the storm initially and then demonstrate their matchwinning ability in a crucial five-minute period that took the match out of South Africa's hands.

Here were some of the talking points to arise:

Aerial dogfight

Everyone knew the South Africans would bombard the NZ back three with high kicks and that tactic seemed to pay early dividends, with George Bridge conceding an early turnover.

When the All Blacks returned the favour, Cheslin Kolbe was safe as houses under the bomb for a mark.

George Bridge rises high to make a catch
George Bridge rises high to make a catch. Photo credit: Photosport

But as the game progressed that dominance dissipated - Bridge righted his earlier mistake with a courageous claim that sparked an attack from New Zealand.

Rushing defence

For the first 20 minutes, the Springboks tacklers operated behind the NZ advantage line, driving their counterparts back with bruising hits that had them in complete disarray.

The All Blacks struggled to get their hands on the ball and when they did, they often found a defender in their faces.

As a result, the passing lacked accuracy and they were forced to kick for safety.

Ironically, a different kind of kicking game eventually provided the spark for New Zealand to break their shackles just long enough to take control of the scoreboard.

"That's pretty gutless"

The All Blacks hinted at their gamebreaking potential, when Richie Mo'unga snaffled up a loose ball and dashed towards the goalposts, but was dragged down metres short by Makazole Mapimpi.

The Springboks winger did well to wrap up the ball and prevent a quick offload, but referee Jerome Garces' decision to award just a penalty didn't exactly impress skipper Kieran Read, who apparently expressed his disgust in no uncertain terms.

Mo'unga kicked the penalty from short range to level the scores at 3-3, but the incident signalled a change in momentum that the New Zealand would further capitalise on within seconds.

Mo'unga to Reece

While much of the talk this season has been the developing Mo'unga-Beauden Barrett combo in the playmaking positions, another tandem act set the platform for the All Blacks to attack.

With the South African defenders shutting down a passing game along the backline, Mo'unga resorted to kicking laterally for Crusaders Super Rugby teammate Sevu Reece, avoiding the logjam in midfield.

Twice in those crucial five minutes, the flying Fijian winger responded by burning his marker to begin tryscoring movements.

Rematch in the final?

There's an old adage that you can't win a tournament in the first game, but you can lose it.

All week long, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen cautioned that a loss would not necessarily spell the end of either team's World Cup hopes, although all eyes will now be on Sunday's Ireland v Scotland match, which could hold the key to quarter-final crossovers.

If results go as expected, the Springboks may now need to overcome world No.1 Ireland to reach the semis. Again, there's a lot of water to pass under the bridge before that happens. 

But on this performance, that's certainly not out of the question.

Remember, eight years ago, New Zealand beat France in pool play, only to strike them again in the final.

And that was a French team that also lost to Tonga during preliminaries - this South African side is much better than that. 

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The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Grant Chapman is Newshub online sports editor.

 

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