DUNEDIN - New Zealand flyhalf Aaron Cruden kicked two late penalties as the All Blacks hung on to beat South Africa 21-11 in their Rugby Championship clash at Otago Stadium on Saturday.
South Africa, who had drawn and lost their previous two games in the Rugby Championship could be considered unlucky not to have won just their second test in Dunedin, missing 20 points from poor goal kicking.
"They were long range (kicks) and normally those kickers will put them over so we're thankful for that," New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said in a pitchside interview.
"They played a very physical game and took it to us early on. That's exactly what we expected, that type of match from the Boks. It always seems to be like that.
"But towards that latter part of the second half we started getting a wee bit of control and the guys stuck to what we after and we started to put a bit of pressure on.
"I was proud with the way the guys held their composure but she (the match) was a good old ding dong... (and) yeah, just happy with the win."
The Springboks had been criticised prior to the match for their one-dimensional game plan that involved flyhalf Morne Steyn hoisting the ball high into the air and hoping the All Blacks would commit errors inside their own territory.
The tactic, however, was effective as the Springboks were awarded several kickable penalties and could have had a handy 18-5 lead by the break had Steyn and inside centre Frans Steyn not combined to miss five penalty attempts.
The Springboks also blew a certain try early in the match when Bryan Habana was unmarked 15 metres from the line only for the final pass to go behind him and into touch, leaving the exasperated right winger glowering at his team mates.
All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg scored the home side's only first half points when he backed up an initial break he made and lock Sam Whitelock and number eight Kieran Read both managed to pop the ball free in the tackle.
The try, however, was the only time the All Blacks managed to string phases together as they were heavily penalised by referee George Clancy and guilty of poor presentation and care of the ball at the breakdown.
Habana, however, showed his world class finishing abilities early in the second half when he received a flat pass from scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, burst through an Aaron Smith tackle, chipped ahead over winger Julian Savea and gathered the ball again to score his 43rd test try and give the visitors an 8-5 lead.
Cruden levelled the scores with a 53rd minute penalty and the All Blacks finally took better control of the ball, with replacement scrumhalf Smith sidestepping his way past three defenders to score a try and give the home side a 15-8 lead when Cruden converted.
Replacement Johan Goosen, who many pundits thought would be a better option to start the game at flyhalf, kicked a mammoth 70th minute penalty for the Springboks to make the last 10 minutes interesting.
"I don't think many people gave us a chance," Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said.
"Our goal kicking wasn't great. Yeah we had opportunities, but at this level you can't make that many mistakes, not capitalise on your opportunities and think you're going to win the game.
"But to put the best team in the world under pressure for 80 minutes, that's a big step forward."