All Blacks squeeze past Springboks 25-24 for clean sweep

New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams fends of South African defenders during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand, at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
New Zealand forward Kane Hames is confronted by three South Africa defenders during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand, at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
New Zealand wing Rieko Ioane goes for the try line, during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand, at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Oct. 07, 2017. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
New Zealand fullback Damian Mckenzie is caught with the ball during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand, at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)
New Zealand forward Dane Coles tries to break through the South African defensive line during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and New Zealand, at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Halden Krog)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — New Zealand weathered a Springboks storm to win 25-24 in the Rugby Championship on Saturday and complete another clean sweep of the southern hemisphere tournament.

With the title already locked up, New Zealand had to dig deep at Newlands to clinch a sixth win out of six in the championship.

It did, showing world champion composure to take everything a desperate South Africa could throw at it at Newlands before replying late with a try by fullback Damian McKenzie and a game-clinching penalty by replacement flyhalf Lima Sopoaga.

South Africa backup center Damian de Allende was sent off for a late, high charge on Sopoaga that set up that crucial kick with four minutes to play.

At 25-17, the All Blacks created enough of a cushion to cling on after hooker Malcolm Marx drove over for South Africa with two minutes left.

Both teams scored three tries in a pulsating battle. McKenzie, center Ryan Crotty and wing Rieko Ioane for the All Blacks; scrumhalf Ross Cronje, loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez and hooker Marx for South Africa.

New Zealand, having beaten South Africa by a record 57-0 at home last month, had to work much harder this time and trailed 17-15 with just over 10 minutes to go.

But whether it's by 57 points, or one, New Zealand found a way to win and cap another masterly tournament.

The champs also came through after losing playmaker Beauden Barrett to injury midway through the first half, and dangerous winger Nehe Milner-Skudder at the end of the half.

This victory was the All Blacks' sixth straight over South Africa and was the second successive time the world's best team has gone 6-0 in the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand led 8-3 at halftime with Crotty's score off a chargedown.

South Africa, with perseverance and grit, took the lead early in the second half through Cronje's quick thinking to dot down against the post padding.

Ioane's try came against the run of play as he latched on to a wayward Springboks pass and went 80 meters to score.

South Africa responded again with a bust by Marx, who put Du Preez clear.

McKenzie's magical try, slicing through South Africa's defensive line and speeding away, was the first of two late blows that finally sealed it.

The second came when De Allende followed through after attempting to charge down a Sopoaga kick, and made contact with the flyhalf late and high.

De Allende got a red card and Sopoaga got up, dusted himself off, and kicked New Zealand to an eight-point lead from which South Africa couldn't come back.

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