Conceding 34 points doesn't look like a defensive masterclass on paper, but make no mistake - a monumental defensive effort was behind the Springboks' 36-34 win over the All Blacks in Wellington last night.

The South African side ended a near four year drought against the All Blacks and claimed their first win on New Zealand soil since 2009 with the slim victory, which they walked away with against the odds.

The Springboks saw just 25 per cent of the football and spent the majority of the 80 minutes camped in their own half absorbing sustained pressure from the All Blacks.

Defence was the reliable constant in their performance.


The tackling discrepancy between the two sides told the tale. The Springboks made 235 tackles in the match compared to the All Blacks' 61 – a difference of 174.

The All Blacks only attempted 73 tackles (with 12 missed) while South Africa attempted 274 (missing 39).

The Springboks made 235 tackles against the All Blacks in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
The Springboks made 235 tackles against the All Blacks in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

The Springboks outmuscled their hosts, stonewalling the All Blacks who launched attack after attack only to, for the most part, come up empty.

While the All Blacks have made a habit of breaking away from teams in the final 20 minutes of matches in recent times, it was the performance of the visitors in that period which closed out the game. Even when fullback Willie le Roux was sinbinned, the Springboks refused to be swept aside.

But they didn't just impress with their backs to the chalk.

Defence turned to offence for two key plays in the Springboks' famous win. Le Roux was quick to pounce on a wayward pass from Jordie Barrett's attempted quick throw-in, scooting away to score under the posts, and Cheslin Kolbe's intercept try in the second half did the damage on the scoreboard for the Springboks.

A look at the statistics might leave you wondering just how the All Blacks were unable to win the match. And, given their dominance in recent times, it's probably a fair question.

To score 36 points against the All Blacks on any given night is tall order, but to do it with so little of the football and 79 per cent of the match played in your own territory is something else.