The Boks scored five tries to one – flyhalf Manie Libbok converting all of them – to head for France on Saturday with momentum maintained and the milestone of having eclipsed the previous heaviest defeat (21 points) suffered by New Zealand – a 28-7 reverse in Sydney in 1999.
The Springboks intensity, lineout efficiency and scrum dominance were too much for New Zealand who lost lock Scott Barrett to a red card late in the first half – but that was as much a symptom of the All Blacks’ panic as it was of anything else.
The Springboks made a blistering start and dominated the opening half-hour, although the points advantage their play deserved did not materialise until the end of a brutal first quarter.
The New Zealand defence was battered, bruised, bent but unyielding against wave after wave of green-shirted attackers breaking like an angry ocean on New Zealand’s shores.
Three times the Boks crossed the line in that period with Malcolm Marx and Pieter-Steph du Toit unable to ground through the All Black bodies they carried over the line, while Makazole Mapimpi was tackled out in the left wing’s corner in the act of scoring.
The All Blacks were in the process of conceding nine penalties before the Boks had conceded one and referee Matthew Carley’s patience snapped in the 14th minute with Scott Barrett given 10 minutes for playing the half back, two minutes before captain Sam Cane followed him for entering the side of a maul – it was their fourth such penalty at the phase.
With a two-man advantage the dam finally broke and it was captain Siya Kolisi who was the fourth man to cross the line, this time managing to waft one end of the ball over the whitewash and under the crossbar with his mate Eben Etzebeth at his back.
New Zealand did not see the Springbok 22 until the end of the quarter and while short on numbers took a penalty shot at the first one conceded by the Boks, but Richie Mo’unga’s strike came back off the outside pole.
The All Blacks began to gain some field position and build some phases but the Springbok defence was remorseless close in and scrambled urgently wider out.
One such moment generated the Boks’ second try when wing Kurt-Lee Arendse anticipated brilliantly to pop up in centre field and grab an offload by Jordie Barrett intended for brother Beauden. Arendse sprinted in from halfway to keep up his try-a-game average with his 11th in his 10th test.
Libbok converted from in front again and four minutes later New Zealand’s misery escalated. Scott Barrett dived shoulder first into a ruck, striking Marx on the side of the head. He earlier yellow led to an automatic red although a citing commissioner will decide if it merited such in its own right.
New Zealand refused to lie down and give up however and their ability to keep the pace high and the ball mobile with multiple offloads created an opening for wing Will Jordan to score a try on the stroke of half time. The All Blacks’ relief was short-lived however – the try was ruled out by the TMO for an earlier knock on.
The second half started as the first had, with the Boks setting a lineout close to the All Black line but this time the reward was instant. The ball was won in the middle and dropped off the top to Kolisi who fed Marx on the touchline to thunder in from 10 metres. It was the big hooker's 17th Test try, the most by a Springbok forward.
Twickenham erupted moments later when Canan Moodie appeared to have scored the fourth Bok try. The centre toed ahead on halfway, picked up and dummied and brushed his way through the covering defence to score halfway out on the left. Unfortunately, he had been half a step in front of the ball as it spilled out of the side of a ruck and the try was disallowed.
In what may have been a rugby first, seven forward replacements entered the fray simultaneously for the Boks as the brains trust cleared the bench but for scurmhalf Cobus Reinach to further ratchet up the pressure on New Zealand.
There was some respite for New Zealand and anxiety for the Boks when Pieter-Steph du Toit’s tackle on Cane – as the All Black dipped – meant his wrapping arm made contact with the ball carrier’s head and he was yellow carded with a referral to the bunker. It was not elevated to a red however.
The pain continued for New Zealand as Bongi Mbonambi and Kwagga Smith scored two further tries from a maul and a lineout to pile on the agony.
As the game loosened up and New Zealand threw caution to the winds, replacement scrumhalf Cam Roigard scored a consolation try but they could not breach the Boks again as an awe-inspiring performance was completed with the defence smashing back ball carriers to the last whistle.
South Africa 35 (14) – Tries: Siya Kolisi, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Kwagga Smith. Conversions: Manie Libbok (5).
New Zealand 7 (0) – Try: Cam Roigard. Conversion: Richie Mo’unga.