Rugby World Cup Watch: Resilient All Blacks firm up fav status

South Africa will feel well and truly mugged after losing 27-20 to New Zealand in Johannesburg, after Heyneke Meyer’s evolving outfit led the world champions for much of the match and entered the last five minutes of action level-pegging.

Springboks 21-year-old’s Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel, at fly-half and centre respectively, built on fine showings in their country’s 24-20 reverse away to Australia in the first round of the Rugby Championship, with the former kicking half his side’s points and timing a pass beautifully for the latter’s 46th-minute try.

That left South Africa 17-10 ahead and dreaming of only a second victory over the All Blacks in eight matches, but as Ireland will tell you after turning a 19-0 lead into a 24-22 loss 20 months ago, Steve Hansen’s men just won’t lie down.

They struck back with a brilliant try from hooker Dane Coles, who ran a line any back would be proud of when bursting through to touch down three minutes after Kriel, but the piece de resistance came straight off the training ground from the visiting captain.

In Richie McCaw’s 140th international appearance, leaving him just one behind Brian O’Driscoll in the all-time record books, the 34-year-old flanker crashed over for his 27th All-Blacks try, after fooling the hosts’ lineout just metres from the try line.

The fixture cannot have made good watching for the likes of Ireland chief Joe Schmidt, England boss Stuart Lancaster and Wales head Warren Gatland, as the two sides battled to the end at a frenetic pace despite the likes of Victor Matfield, Jean De Villiers, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu missing out

Hansen’s men were unmoved as 5/4 market leaders for the World Cup, which starts in less than two months’ time, with hosts England 7/2, South Africa 5/1, Ireland 8s and 9/1 bar.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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