With an air of desperation around them, the Springboks stood up to produce a clinical 18-5 win over the All Blacks at a jam-packed Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth.
With just 11 days left until they board the plane for the Land of the Long White Cloud, the Springboks knew all too well just how important this game was, and just how needed the victory was not only for their own hopes of defending their World Cup title, but also for the millions that stand behind them in that quest.
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It may have been an All Black B team, but there was no difference in intensity or passion throughout the game, with the Boks being perhaps more motivated and street-smart to take the victory.
Time will tell how important this game was for Peter de Villiers and his team, but there was almost a sigh of relief when the final whistle went because it signaled a truth that will make all South African supporters smile: the Boks can beat anybody on any day and with tournament rugby meaning more about the win than the flash and the flair, they will always have a chance in New Zealand.
With that in mind it was enlightening to see some of the old hands once again stand up and be counted.
COLOSSUS AT THE HELM
Victor Matfield was a colossus leading his side, showing that while some may have their doubts, the most capped Springbok in history certainly has the skills to lead the side into battle.
Then there was the boot of Morne Steyn, whose five penalties and a drop goal were the sum total of the Boks' points on the night.
Steyn, so vilified by some after the Boks' poor performance in Australia, proved again why he is so necessary for the World Cup.
Three of the kicks were from 50 metres, and at sea level that says something. He may have his flaws but Steyn certainly proved he is a big-game player for the big occasion.
But while Steyn potted the points when necessary, it was left to two of the mongrels on the field to do the biggest damage.
Man-of-the-match Heinrich Brussow was a terrier, and All Black coach Graham Henry must have nightmares at his pilfering tactics that hurt the All Blacks so much. Brussow was, well… the Brussow we all know, and deserved the award for a magnificent effort.
Bismarck du Plessis proved once again why he is rated the best hooker in world rugby with another barnstorming performance that makes you scratch your head and wonder how the Boks can dare not start him every game.
Hot on Brussow’s heels, Bismarck churned out the metres, made his tackles and manufactured more than enough turnovers to make any No 2 envious.
There were also good performances by a host of other Boks, not the least Jaque Fourie, who not only saved a certain try in a frenzied opening period by intercepting the last pass from Israel Dagg, but also by Bryan Habana, who despite his inability to keep his line on defence, made a try-saving tackle and hounded the All Blacks whenever he was near.
There were several things to smile about in this test, and it isn’t often that an All Black scrum is monstered in the fashion it was tonight.
The game answered several questions not only for the Boks, but also the All Blacks, who will realise their second stringers are just as vulnerable as anyone else’s when the pressure is on.
While the victory was being savoured across the country, it is important to remind ourselves that this team is far from one that will win the World Cup.
The Boks were much better on defence than before, but still missed too many first-time tackles. What was a marked difference was the way they scrambled, and the heart they had in defence.
The All Blacks butchered several tries on the evening, most of them stopped by the desperation of a side needing a victory so much more.
But when they did get it right, it was a beauty to watch. The only try of the match came when Sonny Bill Williams slipped a beauty of an inside pass to Hosea Gear, who carved his way through before unloading to Richard Kahui for the try.
It was something the Boks never looked like doing on the evening, although there were some promising breaks and it would be unfair to say they were not enterprising at times.
A victory is what counted tonight and a victory is what was achieved. Nothing else will matter in the Bok camp.
However, the sobering reality is that in 160 minutes of rugby at home, the Boks couldn’t score a single try with their A team. While the backs-to-the-wall victory needs to be applauded for its timing and intensity, the bigger picture may need more than just desperation and a solid boot.
South Africa - Penalties: Morne Steyn (5). Drop goal: Steyn
New Zealand - Try: Richard Kahui.