New Zealand 'win ugly' in 100th S. Africa Test to seal Rugby Championship

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In a torrid affair with a high error count in Townsville, the All Blacks led 13-11 at half-time and both sides traded penalties through the second half until Barrett landed the killer blow with two minutes remaining (AFP/Patrick HAMILTON)
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A late Jordie Barrett penalty saw New Zealand clinch the Rugby Championship with an "ugly" 19-17 victory over South Africa in the historic 100th Test between the arch-enemies on Saturday.

In a torrid affair with a high error count in Townsville, the All Blacks led 13-11 at half-time and both sides traded penalties through the second period until Barrett landed the killer blow from 43 metres with two minutes remaining.

It gave the unbeaten All Blacks an unassailable lead in the Rugby Championship with one round remaining.

"If ever you're going to take an ugly win, we'll take that," relieved All Blacks coach Ian Foster said.

"Clearly it was going to be a big arm wrestle. We tried to break it open but couldn't. It wasn't pretty but I loved the attitude at the end."

The powerful Springboks pack won a remarkable 13 turnovers, only to see the ball kicked away most of the time, and Foster said the All Blacks needed to get better at handling that style of play.

"It's one thing to dismiss it as boring, which a lot of people do, but it's ruthless and clinical and they are very good at it," he said.

"We ran out of time in many situations and that put our skill-set under pressure, so there's a real learning curve for us."

The showdown had been a long time in the making -- 100 years since two of the world's great rivals first faced off and two years since they clashed at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The world-champion Springboks went into the game on the back of stinging criticism from coach Jacques Nienaber who demanded improvement after back-to-back losses to Australia.

He declared himself satisfied with the response as the boot of Handre Pollard had them in sight of victory, before Barrett stepped up to seal the outcome.

"The game plan worked. I thought we had opportunities, they had opportunities, it came down to the wire," said Nienaber.

"A call here, a bounce of the ball there and sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it goes against you."

Of the 100 Tests between New Zealand and South Africa, the All Blacks have now won 60, South Africa 36 and four have been drawn.

- Unflappable Barrett -

In a seesaw first half it was a try apiece within the opening five minutes, before the Springboks pulled ahead with two penalties, only for the All Blacks to land two of their own late in the half to regain the lead.

But as much as the All Blacks created opportunities, and punched holes through the Springboks defensive line, they suffered through poor finishing and ill-discipline.

Before a near-capacity crowd of 25,000 at the Queensland Country Bank Stadium, a Codie Taylor break paved the way for Will Jordan to score the opening try, with Jordie Barrett landing the conversion to have the All Blacks ahead 7 -0.

Almost immediately the Springboks replied when George Bridge misjudged a high kick from Faf de Klerk and Sbu Nkosi snapped up the ball to score.

The normally reliable Pollard missed the conversion but banged over two penalties soon after to put the Springboks ahead 11-7.

While Bridge was having problems dealing with the high ball on the left wing, the Springboks inexplicably turned their attention to fullback Jordie Barrett, who remained unflappable under a succession of bombs and was willing to ignite a counterattack.

He also landed two penalties late in the half, the second when Nkosi was yellow-carded for a deliberate knockdown when the All Blacks were attacking the line.

At the start of the second half the All Blacks twice turned down close-range shots at goal in favour of a lineout drive and both times came up short. Instead it was the Springboks who scored through a third Pollard penalty.

From there to the final whistle the All Blacks played attacking rugby without reward, leaving Pollard and Barrett to trade penalties.