Don't stop believing. If ever that notion proved true for the All Blacks this was it.

Leading into their 2015 World Cup title defence, the All Blacks produced great escapes in Dublin, Sydney and Ellis Park.

In those moments they learnt not to panic; to trust those around them. Ultimately that collective experience guided them through tense knockout matches and secured their history-making repeat success.

Three weeks ago in Wellington the All Blacks' game management failed them as they suffered a shock home defeat to the Springboks, their first since '09.

But in this emotionally-charged rematch they never lost belief. This time they pulled off a scarcely believable victory, coming back from 30-13 down to run over the Boks with three second half tries at Loftus.

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While there is much the All Blacks will seek to rectify, these are victories where true character is formed.

"You're not going to have the momentum for the whole 80 minutes if you're playing against a quality team," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "South Africa had it for a long time but at some point if we kept fronting up, believing we were going to have our turn and then it was a matter of making sure we made the most of our turn.

"It could easily have been one we let go and allowed them to win but they dug in deep and refused to give up. Sometimes if you keep knocking on the door someone will open it and you can come in."

For 65 minutes Rassie Erasmus' vastly-improved Boks dominated, only to fold when the All Blacks finally secured and retained some decent ball.

"South Africa played incredibly well and are probably unlucky not to have won it. We were thought we were unlucky not to win in Wellington so two great test matches which is great for the game."

Hansen quickly dismissed the notion this result would hold a major bearing on his side's opening World Cup test against the Boks next year but did acknowledge its importance in regards to overcoming pressure.

"Everyone gets excited about how this game is going to make a difference at the World Cup. It won't matter a hoot. What it will do is for our young players who haven't been in a situation when they haven't been behind before they'll put their head on the pillow tonight understanding that don't stop believing.

"For the South Africans it will be don't stop playing. Don't give an inch. Both teams will get plenty out of it from that point of view."

As is often the case at altitude, the All Blacks bench once again proved the difference.

On the backfoot, Hansen turned to his reserves. Ardie Savea delivered another outstanding performance after Sam Cane left with a serious neck injury after 35 minutes.

Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tuungasfasi and Tim Perry came on just after halftime – 10 minutes earlier than usual. And again Richie Mo'unga looked calm and assured, slotting the match-winning conversion after pushing Beauden Barrett to fullback.

"They provided energy and purpose. Someone like Ardie had to come on early and I think he is really growing. This season he has made a mark. He is starting to believe he can be a test player of real quality. He got two great turnovers near the end and scored a try but he had to go a long way into the game.

"Richie came on and played well. All of them did their job.

"How you use your bench is a trump card. You've got them there and you've got to use them at some point. It's an art to come off the bench and do something. We train that a lot."

All Blacks assistant Ian Foster revealed Barrett, who has slotted six from six since his horror night in the capital, made the call to hand Mo'unga the goal kicking duties.

"It wasn't a definite strategy but we trust the decisions they make on the park. He banged over a couple of goodies.

"He'll obviously love the moment of kicking the winning goal but it's the fact he was part of a group that came off the bench and showed a lot of energy. He made some smart decisions. He didn't panic with some of the penalties we got in the last 10 minutes. He took his time and kicked to the corner… one lucky bounce which we will take. Overall it's just another experience he can bank away."

While the All Blacks eventually survived, Hansen and Kieran Read both admitted their scrappy skills and defensive lapses after half time left plenty of room for growth.

"To win a game like that it obviously feels fantastic," Read said, the exhaustion clear in the skipper's voice after sitting out last week's win in Argentina. "Those are the type of games where you think right through you're not going to win so there has got to be a belief in there somewhere deep inside you to keep yourself going and keep going for it. I think we showed that tonight.

"There was always plenty of time on the clock; time for us to get back in the game even though we were down 14 points at times.

"The majority of the game they dictated us and they did a fantastic job of that we didn't have a chance to impart anything on them. That's probably one thing we'll look back on and try and improve."