Rugby Championship: New Zealand defeat South Africa to close in on title

Ardie Savea
Image credit: Getty Images

New Zealand are close to the Rugby Championship title after beating South Africa 41-13 in Christchurch.

South Africa started brightly, with Bryan Habana crossing for his 66th Test try to give the visitors an early lead.

However, Elton Jantjies spilt restart saw the Springboks concede both the lead and the momentum, with Israel Dagg crossing from the resultant scrum.

The All Blacks will win the series unless Argentina secure a bonus-point victory in Australia later on Saturday.

New Zealand have made a habit of starting slowly before impressing in the second half throughout the tournament, as they seek to reclaim the title from last year's winners Australia.

Saturday was no different, with Habana picking an excellent line to penetrate the New Zealand defence after 20 minutes.

However, when fly-half Jantjies fumbled Beauden Barrett's restart, the All Blacks seized the initiative.

Within 10 minutes they had a clear lead after Julian Savea scored from a fine offload by hooker Dane Coles - and they went into the break 15-10 up.

New Zealand ended any thoughts of a South Africa fightback early in the second half when Ben Smith finished a slick move that featured two impressive Ardie Savea breaks.

Savea ran over from close range soon afterwards following sterling work from scrum-half Ben Smith, then lock Sam Whitelock crossed on the wing after more impressive play from Coles, before TJ Perenara rounded off the scoring.
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