The All Blacks and Springboks applauded Dan Carter on Saturday as the master fly-half steered New Zealand to a 20-18 World Cup semi-final win.
“He’s in the form we need him to be right now,” backs coach Ian Foster said as the defending champions await the outcome of the second semi-final on Sunday between Australia and Argentina.
It was back-to-back star performances by Carter after he was instrumental in guiding the All Blacks in their 62-13 demolition of France in the quarter-finals last week.
The All Blacks could not play with the same latitude against South Africa and trailed their arch-rivals 12-7 in their semi-final at Twickenham.
They were also a man down with Jerome Kaino having nine minutes remaining in the sin-bin after the restart.
But with the odds against them, Carter stepped up.
He slammed over a drop goal to cut the deficit to 12-10 then stole the ball from the Springboks outstanding forward Schalk Burger to spark the All Blacks second try by Beauden Barrett.
In a six minute burst Carter was directly responsible for 10 points, giving the All Blacks a lead they never surrendered.
South African coach Heyneke Meyer said the drop goal was the turning point.
“I always said before the World Cup, a drop goal, three points, can be the difference and all credit to Carter.
“When they needed it he put it through.”
Carter, who joins Racing92 in France after the World Cup, has struggled with injury in recently years and played in only 21 of the All Blacks 49 games between the 2011 and prezsent World cups.
“To control this team they way he is controlling it is outstanding,” Foster said.
“He’s reaping the rewards from some of that really hard work when he’s had to come back from injuries. To see him out there now, playing freely, and running around with a smile on his face is outstanding.”
Carter with 10 points from the match became the first non-England player to pass 100 points at Twickenham. He has become New Zealand’s leading World Cup point scorer with 172, two more than the previous record held by Grant Fox.
Facing Carter, now in the twilight of his career, was the Springboks’ rising fly-half Handre Pollard who punished the All Blacks for their ill-discipline with five penalties.
The penalty count was 13-6 against the All Blacks and coach Steve Hansen said that was worrying ahead of next Saturday’s final.
“They scored a lot of points from kicks at goal and if we can sort that out it makes it hard for the oppositon. So it’s something we’ve got to look at” before the final, he said.
In addition to Carters drop goal he also kicked a penalty and converted tries by Jerome Kaino and Beauden Barrett.
For South Africa, Pollard kicked five penalties and Pat Lambie kicked one.