New Zealand, South Africa draw 16-16 in Rugby Championship

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South Africa's Damian de Allende, left, steps inside New Zealand's Matt Todd during a rugby championship match between the All Blacks and South Africa in Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday, July 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Ross Setford)
South Africa’s Damian de Allende, left, steps inside New Zealand’s Matt Todd during a rugby championship match between the All Blacks and South Africa in Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday, July 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Ross Setford)

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — Replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies scored a try in the final minute to allow South Africa to draw 16-16 with New Zealand in a Rugby Championship test match on Saturday.

Jantjies, who scored two tries in the Springboks’ 35-17 win over Australia last week, controlled a kick at the end of a desperate breakout to score the try which, converted by Handre Pollard, sealed only the fourth draw in 98 matches between the teams.

The final deadlock was probably the fairest result in an even test match which is the last meeting between the teams before they clash on Sept. 21 in the first round of pool play at the World Cup in Japan.

It is unlikely either side will take much confidence towards that more significant meeting from error-strewn performances on Saturday.

One of the least inspiring All Blacks-Springboks tests in recent years looked likely to be decided by a try to New Zealand center Jack Goodhue against the run of play just before halftime.

New Zealand edged away to a 16-9 second-half lead on penalty before a break-out of defense by Willie Le Roux set in motion the movement which led to Jantjies’ try.

“It’s a fantastic feeling because it’s just a step towards our goal which is the coming World Cup,” Springboks captain Duane Vermuelen said. “We’re very happy with today’s performance and we’re looking forward to next weekend.” The Springboks close out the abbreviated Rugby Championship schedule in two weeks against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

South Africa dominated the first half in terms of territory and possession but could manage only two penalties to flyhalf Handre Pollard. Goodhue’s try, converted by Beauden Barrett, gave New Zealand an undeserved 7-6 lead at halftime.

The first half was notable only for the number of handling errors made by both sides.

The second half continued in similar vein: the only points until the final minute came from penalties — two to Richie Mo’unga and one to Barrett for the All Blacks and another to Pollard for the Springboks.

Neither side was able to achieve continuity because of handling lapses and because rush defenses, cluttering the midfield, made it difficult to move the ball wide.

Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk guided South Africa around the field expertly for the first 40 minutes, mixing a strong kicking game which pressured New Zealand with some good tactical choices. But he left the field for a head injury assessment early in the second half and didn’t return.

Jantjies stepped brilliantly into the breach and his role in the final try showed his keen attacking instinct.

Goodhue’s try came from a moment of opportunism. Vermuelen lost the ball in contact, All Blacks captain Kieran Read claimed it and Sonny Bill Williams’ long pass gave Barrett some rare space out wide.

He made good ground before turning the ball infield to Goodhue who outpaced the remainder of the defense.

“Probably like everyone else out there I thought it was a fantastic test match,” Read said. “It went right down to the wire, to the 80th minute. It’s been that way between our two sides for the last couple of years and I really privileged to be part of.

“I guess it’s funny when you draw but you’ve got to have a smile on your face I guess.”