Rugby World Cup: All Blacks suffer record defeat to South Africa in final tournament hitout at Twickenham

New Zealand have suffered a massive World Cup wake-up call - their biggest-ever defeat, 35-7 to South Africa at Twickenham - losing two key forwards to injury and red card in the process.

Stung by their Rugby Championship defeat at Mt Smart last month, the Springboks never allowed their rivals into the contest and the All Blacks compounded their woes with three first-half yellow cards, one converted to a red for lock Scott Barrett.

In addition, they lost prop Tyrel Lomax to a knee injury and were unable to find the scoreboard until late in proceedings, as their 11-game unbeaten streak melted away.

Just two weeks out from the World Cup, both proud rugby nations seemed determined to add another chapter to their intense rivalry over the ages. 

Scott Barret is shown a red card against South Africa.
Scott Barret is shown a red card against South Africa. Photo credit: Getty Images

The All Blacks were perhaps two players - maybe three - away from their top line-up, with lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Shannon Frizell and hooker Codie Taylor nursing pesky injuries. While coach Ian Foster departed from tradition with a six-two bench split, counterpart Jacques Nienaber went one further, naming just one reserve back, as he beefed up the revered 'Bomb Squad'. 

New Zealand were under early pressure, when prop Ethan de Groot conceded a scrum penalty and then the lineout defence was early countering the expected maul from close range. 

Flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit was held up over the tryline and winger Makazole Mapimpi was shoved into touch in the corner, as the All Blacks were warned for repeated infringements. 

They conceded a five-metre scrum from a blown clearance behind their line and Lomax collapsed for another penalty. After 12 minutes without the ball, Barrett was eventually yellow-carded, when he strayed offside, but Lomax was also carted off in a worrisome knee brace. 

Everyone's worst fears had been realised, as New Zealand lost a key forward on the eve of the World Cup. 

Seconds later, All Blacks captain Sam Cane joined Barrett on the sideline for side entry into a maul. 

From the ensuing penalty and lineout, hooker Malcolm Marx was also held up by first-five Richie Mo'unga, but eventually the pressure told, with Springboks captain Siya Kolosi barging over between the posts – notably, under another penalty advantage. 

From the kickoff, Mo'unga had a chance to put the 13-man All Blacks on the board, but hit the upright with his handy penalty attempt. When they ventured into the South Africa half, they could not converted, with Dane Coles having an attacking lineout throw picked off and Ardie Savea’s intercepted by centre Canan Moodie. 

Eben Etzebeth stole a defensive throw from Coles, but fullback Damian Willemse lost the ball with the corner in sight. 

South Africa’s second try came, as the All Blacks tried to break out of their 22 and second-five Jordie Barrett offloaded into the hands of wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, who had too much speed for the last defender. 

Before halftime, New Zealand had a penalty advantage in front of the Springboks posts, but Scott Barrett played Marx on the ground in a ruck and received a second yellow card, which became a red. 

As Foster rearranged his pack, flanker Luke Jacobson made way for lock Tupou Vaa'i. 

With time up on the clock, the All Blacks finally seemed to have something to show for their efforts, stringing together phases under repeated penalty advantage, before wing Will Jordan crossed the tryline, but the score was disallowed for a knockon in the build-up. 

Coles had another lineout throw stolen and New Zealand went into halftime 14-0 down and one man down for the entire second half. South Africa needed only a few seconds after the restart to grab a third try, working a play around the front of an attacking lineout for Marx to score.  

When centre Rieko Ioane couldn’t gather an awkwardly bouncing kick from a ruck, Moodie pounced and beat a handful of tacklers to find the line, but was called back for offside. 

Eight minutes after the restart, Nienaber played his trump card, bringing on all seven reserve forwards at once, with only du Toit remaining from his starting pack. 

Du Toit earned some respite on the bench, when he hit Cane with a high tackle, temporarily evening up the numbers again, but another attacking lineout saw replacement hooker Bongi Mbonambi carried over at the back of the maul. 

From that point, the fixture became a matter of self-preservation for the All Blacks, with Foster extracting his battered stars, before anything worse could happen. Kwagga Smith converted yet another attacking lineout into another seven-pointer, as first-five Manie Libbok continued his faultless goalkicking performance.

Finally - finally - New Zealand had something to cheer, when rookie halfback Cam Roigard shrugged off a couple of tackles and sprinted 40 metres to score, and avoid the down-trou.

After a week of rhetoric over how this was not being treated as a 'warm-up', Foster will now hope his team have flushed all the rust out of their system before the games that count. He will face some anxiety over Lomax's injury and possible suspension for Barrett, especially with Retallick also unavailable for the World Cup opener against France.

Springboks celebrate a try against the All Blacks.
Springboks celebrate a try against the All Blacks. Photo credit: Getty Images

In Barrett's defence, his first yellow was a 'team' penalty for persistent infringing - he just happened to be the next offender after the warning.

The NZ performance will also give Foster's staff plenty to dissect in upcoming video sessions over the next two weeks.

"We were pretty excited to play here at Twickenham in front of a lot of fans that don't get to see us often," said Cane. "There's no denying, we're really disappointed with how we performed tonight.

"At the same time, a lot of credit has to go to the way the 'Boks played - they were dominant in all facets and, at the end of the day, our discipline really hurt us. Their ability to dominate scrum, maul, lineout - set-piece - made it really difficult for us to get anything going.

"They were able to continue that for the full 80 minutes. It certainly stings and hurts, and it's a game that we will have to learn a lot from - quickly - but I'd much rather have that now, than a few weeks' time.

"It reminds us that our feet must stay firmly on the ground and we've got a lot of work to do in the next couple of weeks."

New Zealand actually entered the game with a chance to snatch the No.1 world ranking before the World Cup, if they could win by 15 points or more. Instead, the defending world champions have sounded a warning that they will be tough to dethrone.

South Africa 35 (Kolisi, Arendse, Marx, Mbonambi & Smith tries; Libbok 5 conversions) All Blacks 7 (Roigard try; Mo'unga conversion)

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