All Blacks snatch thriller but Ireland can overtake them as World No.1 in November
What a comeback.
South Africa looked odds on to defeat New Zealand for the second game on the spin but they will still finish second in The Rugby Championship table.
Rassie Erasmus has worked wonders with the Springboks since he took the helm ahead of the June Tests against England. South Africa won that series, playing some thrilling rugby, and they grew into the championship itself.
After defeating the All Blacks in Wellington, last month, the Boks then beat Australia 23-12 in Port Elizabeth. The ABs claimed an unassailable lead, on the same weekend, by seeing off Argentina in Buenos Aires.
Loftus Versveld Stadium provided the setting for the Boks vs. All Blacks face-off finalé and it was Erasmus that got the upper-hand over Steve Hansen, and the world champions, again.
Penalties were the order of the day in the first half but the hosts cut loose, and cut through New Zealand, after the break. They led 23-6 and 30-11 at different stages but the All Blacks fought back with quick tries on both occasions.
30-18 in the final 10 minutes but the world champs never doubted themselves. They piled on the pressure, remained ice cool and scored two late, converted tries to win 32-30 at the death. A thrilling win for the worthy Rugby Championship supremos.
The result has not affected the world rankings standings but New Zealand gained 0.44 points for the victory, while the Boks (in 5th) lost the same amount.
New Zealand are now almost three points ahead of Ireland in the world rankings.
Joe Schmidt's men, currently on a winning streak, have their highest ever points total but will need a couple of results to go their way to overtake New Zealand in November. An Ireland win at the Aviva Stadium next month see them gain 0.98 points (with the ABs losing the same amount).
To make that game a straight shoot-out for the top spit, Hansen's side would have to lose against Australia (in Yokohama), Japan (Chogu) or England (London) before travelling to Dublin.
That top ranking would be an extra incentive for the men in green, and another layer of drama to a hotly anticipated contest.