All Blacks survive “Hell’s Park” with a late try
By Sandile van Heerden
When fans flocked to Ellis Park A.K.A Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon, two things were guaranteed: The cold was only going to get worse and the world’s top two rugby teams were going to dish up another cracking encounter.
Recent meetings between the giants of the sport, particularly at the iconic Johannesburg venue, have been a great advertisement for the game.
The 2013 match that the visitors won 38-27 saw nine tries scored in total.
International media called it “the greatest game in Test rugby history”, which was later seconded by referee on the day, Nigel Owens.
The following year was South Africa’s turn to leave the field victorious, after another bruising encounter and high quality rugby.
Pat Lamble’s long penalty kick saw Heyneke Meyer’s men celebrate a 27-25 win.
Despite dominating territory and possession for large parts of the game the Boks had to settle for second place after a 27-20 defeat.
While many Springbok fans would have left Doornfontein disappointed on Saturday night, neutrals and connoisseurs of the game would have felt their R350-R700 tickets were worth every cent.
So what is it about these two sides when they meet at Ellis Park?
All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw said it was down to the two sides being ranked one and two in the world and conditions conducive to running rugby.
It’s also understandable that the All Blacks love beating the Springboks at Ellis Park, after all it a difficult venue for them to play at.
The altitude hurts visitors the longer the game goes on and having 60 thousand or so South Africans baying for blood doesn’t help either.
Also, Ellis Park still haunts the men from the Land of the Long White Cloud 20 years on.
It was the scene where Francois Pienaar flanked by former president Nelson Mandela lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy while the more favoured New Zealand team looked on.
I even thought I heard assistant coach Ian Foster refer to the venue as Hell’s Park in the post match conference, but in his defence it could have been his accent..
Steve Hanson and Richie McCaw chuckled before the head coach remarked: “Beautiful! Maybe we should rename it”.