Thursday 18 January 2018

Hansen hails 'courage' as All Blacks seal clean sweep

New Zealand's Rieko Ioane. Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand's Rieko Ioane. Photo: Getty Images

Nigel Whittaker

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen praised his side's "courage" as they claimed their sixth successive win in the Rugby Championship with a hard-fought 25-24 victory against South Africa.

Last month, the All Blacks hammered their opponents 57-0 but this time out just one point separated the sides in Cape Town as New Zealand held on to win.

"Our guys showed a tremendous amount of courage and character in our defence. It was nice to see lots of the young guys have the courage to do what they did.

"There are lots of good things in it and we'll go away, grow, learn more about ourselves - that seems to be the song we're singing this year, but it's not a bad song."

After an early penalty apiece, the All Blacks responded to fierce South Africa pressure by going 8-3 ahead through Ryan Crotty's try.

South Africa pulled back to 15-15, with tries from Ross Cronje and Jean-Luc du Preez sandwiching one from Rieko Ioane. Damian McKenzie then crossed again for New Zealand, who scored an ultimately decisive penalty from Lima Sopoaga after Damian de Allende was shown a red card for elbowing the out-half.

"It completely changed the picture," Hansen said of the red card.

"We started the second half at the 50-minute mark so we weren't going to muck around, we were going to get the subs on fairly quickly so that is what we did.

"I'd say that affected the tackle count too because we made a hell of a lot of them so I'm not sure why we didn't kick it out, but we'll talk about that come another day."

The Springboks made it a nervy finish with a try from Malcolm Marx, converted by Elton Jantjies.

Meanwhile, Australia finished runners-up after a 37-20 bonus-point victory over Argentina.

It was 13-13 at half-time and also level at 20-20, before Australia pulled away with 17 unanswered points.

Reece Hodge scored two tries for the Wallabies, with his second in the 76th minute, and had a hand in two others.

The result in Mendoza meant Australia overtook South Africa into second behind New Zealand, while Argentina finished bottom of the table.

Australia ended with 15 points after two wins, two draws and two defeats.

The Pumas lost all six matches and failed to secure any bonus points for the first time since joining the southern hemisphere competition in 2012.

"Even up until that 60-minute mark there, it was a really hard game," Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper said.

"I'm really proud for a young team that we have been able to grow and to get the win."

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