The All Blacks won this match of brutal intensity on the back of an eight-minute burst in the first half after the Boks seemed to take their foot off the gas.
The men in black drew deep breaths and held sway in the decisive moments to win this much anticipated Rugby World Cup match and has taken early control of Pool B.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd of 63,649‚ the Kiwis held their defensive lines when the Boks came knocking but they crucially also better seized the moment when the opportunity presented itself.
While the Boks’ effort cannot be faulted‚ the All Blacks were slightly more alert when they had chances of advancing on the scoreboard.
A 17-point burst in less than 10 minutes in the first half set New Zealand on course for victory.
Tries by George Bridge and Scott Barrett gave the All Blacks a cushion before the Springboks rallied in the second half.
The Boks had started the match with more intent, dominating territory and possession for much of the opening quarter.
They only had a Handre Pollard penalty to show for it.
When the All Blacks broke out‚ they did so decisively‚ first after Sevu Reece advanced up the right-wing to set up a try on the other wing for Bridge‚ then when Anton Lienert-Brown burst through a gap to set up lock Barrett.
A converted try by Pieter-Steph du Toit and a drop goal by Pollard got them within striking distance but the All Blacks added two penalties by Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett to restore their buffer.
Facing a 14-point deficit at the break‚ the Boks played with more purpose and cohesion in the second half.
Apart from Du Toit‚ Duane Vermeulen and Malcolm Marx grew ever more influential in their ball carries as the Boks grew restive.
Franco Mostert’s presence in the line-out was also keenly felt‚ while Pollard was polished throughout.
The Boks’ box kicking wasn’t always on point and they conceded too many kickable penalties to sustain a realistic challenge against a side like the All Blacks.
With the Boks chasing the game‚ captain Siya Kolisi made way for Francois Louw‚ while prop Trevor Nyakane left the field with what looked like a serious leg injury.
Du Toit also stayed down for a long time deep into the match and if his continued participation in the tournament is compromised it will serve as a deeply unpalatable double whammy for the Boks this early in the tournament.
For them victory over Italy is now non-negotiable.
NEW ZEALAND (17) 23
Tries: George Bridge‚ Scott Barrett.
Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2).
Penalties: Mo’unga (2)‚ Beauden Barrett (1).
SOUTH AFRICA (3) 13
Try: Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Conversion: Handre Pollard.
Drop goal: Pollard.