Skipper Richie McCaw has marked his 140th appearance for New Zealand with a late try to deliver a 27-20 victory over arch-foes South Africa.
The All Blacks flanker won a line-out close to the Springboks line and brushed off scrum-half Ruan Pienaar to cross six minutes before time in Saturday’s Rugby Championship second round Test at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Debutant fly-half Lima Sopoaga converted and kicked a last-minute penalty to give New Zealand a sixth victory in their past seven clashes with South Africa.
The match was a carbon copy of the loss last weekend in Australia for the Springboks as they led for most of the 80 minutes only to concede a late try.
South Africa were left ruing a 10-minute second-half spell when they had a numerical advantage after replacement lock Sam Whitelock was sin-binned but failed to score.
It was an absorbing clash between the world number one-ranked All Blacks and second-ranked Springboks and indicated why they are among the favourites for the Rugby World Cup in England from mid-September.
New Zealand are famed for scoring late in the opening half and they did it again to leave the teams level at 10-10 after 40 exciting, fast-paced minutes on a chilly evening.
A turnover, a clever inside pass from centre Ma’a Nonu, and a break by Sopoaga set up right winger Ben Smith to score after 40 minutes.
Sopaga, who opened the scoring with a close-range third-minute penalty awarded for a Springbok going off his feet at a ruck, converted a simple kick.
The first-half highlight for South Africa came on 10 minutes when a turnover triggered a try by full-back Willie le Roux.
Hooker Bismarck du Plessis caught slow-reacting All Blacks No. 8 Kieran Read in possession, South Africa stole the ball and an inside pass from centre Jesse Kriel allowed Le Roux to dot down.
Fly-half Handre Pollard converted for a four-pont advantage that stretched to seven when he slotted a mid-half penalty after New Zealand flanker Liam Messam high-tackled Kriel.
Both teams had cause for satisfaction after the first half, with the Springboks solid in the scrum, combative at the breakdowns and strong in defence.
New Zealand took the lone first-half line-out steal and the world champions always looked dangerous with the ball in hand.
South Africa regained the lead seven minutes into the second half as Kriel burst between vastly-experienced centres Nonu and Conrad Smith to score a try that Pollard converted.
But the lead lasted just three minutes before New Zealand hooker Dane Coles scored a similar try, displaying the power of a forward and pace of a back.
Another Pollard penalty restored the lead for South Africa, and they stayed in front until McCaw struck the decisive blow.