New Zealand scrumhalf Aaron Smith admitted that he was caught napping when Herschel Jantjies snatched the ball to score that crucial late try.
The All Blacks looked set to win the game with the score at 16-9 before Cheslin Kolbe’s chip kick sent the ball into the All Blacks’ 22.
Smith thought he would have plenty of time to collect the ball as he only saw forward Pieter-Steph du Toit on his right side. However, he was unaware that Jantjies was speeding up to him on his left.
“I saw the winger chip it and I could see big Pieter-Steph du Toit coming, but I didn’t know there was someone else,” said Smith.
“I saw a photo and I’m already calling mark, I was pretty much ready: Don’t drop it, call mark and take my time to kick it out, then we can back our defence again.
“I saw the big man and thought ‘OK, cool, I’ve got enough gas on him’, then I was just trying to make sure I took it.
“I didn’t jump, I didn’t think I needed to. I wish I’d jumped.
“I thought if I’d jumped, du Toit would’ve smoked me when I landed, so I thought just take the kick and mark it, but he [Jantjies] got the jump on me…Just before I caught it, he [Jantjies] came out of nowhere from the other side of me.”
Smith added: “We did everything but win…I should’ve jumped for the ball and then we’d be talking about nothing.
“It’s a bit of a bummer, but that’s rugby. One little lapse makes a difference between a win and a draw. That’s how it feels.”
Smith was full of praise for Jantjies after the game.
“I think he’s got a very, very good career ahead of him.
“I played him this year for the Highlanders against the Stormers and he towelled up our defence, so he’s pretty sharp, but that’s like every team in the Rugby Championship.
“You’ve got [Argentina’s Tomas] Cubelli, [Australia’s] Will Genia and Nic White, [South Africa’s] Faf de Klerk, TJ [Perenara] for us, myself and Brad Weber – it’s a halfback rich world in rugby at the moment.”
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