Paul Cully is a Stuff sports reporter
OPINION: The All Blacks have started the Rugby Championship with a 26-10 loss to the Springboks in Mbombela.
The men in black again began poorly and were forced to chase the test as their scrum wobbled and South Africa comprehensively won the aerial battle.
There was no lack of heart but the defeat will increase the pressure on coach Ian Foster as he fights for his job.
Here are Stuff’s player ratings from the first of two tests against the world champions in South Africa.
Jordie Barrett. Struggled under the high ball and departed after 52 minutes with an ankle injury that could force a reshuffle in the back three next week. Outplayed by opposite Damian Willemse. 5
Will Jordan. Badly beaten in the aerial battle by Makazole Mapimpi. Didn’t touch the ball in attack in first half and started second spell with a kicking error. An unhappy repeat of his tough test against the Springboks in Australia last year. 4
Rieko Ioane. Loose pass in the second half cost the All Blacks three points as the hosts turned the gifted possession into a Handre Pollard drop goal. Replaced minutes later. 4
David Havili. Hands let him down twice when the All Blacks were in good positions. Some elusive running and good use of the boot but accuracy in key moments let him down. 5
Caleb Clarke. Springboks No 9 Faf de Klerk was knocked out cold in the first minute trying to tackle the Blues winger, who looked dangerous whenever he touched the ball. Excellent return to test rugby. 6.5
Beauden Barrett. Landed on his head in a frightening late aerial incident that resulted in a red card for Springboks winger Kurt-Lee Arendse. Produced some good individual moments but the All Blacks attack is clearly still not firing. 5.5
Aaron Smith. Passing was slick but All Blacks’ attempts to speed up the game were constantly foiled by Springboks turnover king Malcolm Marx. 5.5
Ardie Savea. The All Blacks’ best again. Secured a crucial first-half penalty ruck under pressure, tackled with intent and created a rare line break with an inside pass to Jordan. Consistently high standards. 7
Sam Cane (c). Outpointed by inspirational opposite Siya Kolisi and Kwagga Smith when the latter was injected from the bench. Looked a touch off the pace. 4.5
Akira Ioane. Threw a poor forward pass when the All Blacks looked threatening on the counterattack in the first half. Some physical moments in defence but No 6 jersey remains up for grabs. 5
Scott Barrett. Stood up physically as the All Blacks defended with enormous heart. Also showed the back three how to do it by defusing a Springboks bomb. 6.5
Sam Whitelock. Good test from the veteran. Maul defence wasn’t perfect but improved under new forwards coach Jason Ryan. Crusaders lock was also strong at lineout time. 6.5
Angus Ta’avao. Conceded three first-half scrum penalties, although fought back to win one of his own at the end of the first 40 minutes. The All Blacks scrum still needs a lot of work. Replaced after 48 minutes. 4
Samisoni Taukei’aho. The All Blacks’ best ball carrier up front used his power to get the All Blacks on the front foot. Lineout throwing was excellent in an encouraging performance. 6.5
George Bower. Held up better than Ta’avao but still conceded one scrum penalty. Tackled well but limited impact with ball in hand. 5
Dane Coles. On after 55 minutes but was guilty of some uncharacteristic errors that cost the All Blacks possession. 4
Ethan de Groot. Scrum was far more solid when de Groot and Lomax came on, while the Southlander also carried strongly. Must start next week 6
Tyrel Lomax. Scrum work was good but impact around the field was limited. 4.5
Tupou Vaa’i. On late for Scott Barrett with the Springboks leading 19-3. N/A
Shannon Frizell. Very mixed bag after coming on after 55 minutes. Coughed up a cheap penalty, scored the All Blacks’ consolation try and then came up with the handling error to gift the Boks a late score. 4.5
Finlay Christie. On for the last 12 minutes only. N/A
Richie Mo’unga. Replaced the injured Jordie Barrett after 52 minutes and breathed some life into the All Blacks’ faltering attack with his footwork and passing. 5.5
Quinn Tupaea. On for the last quarter. Over-ran his line from a set-piece move to give the Springboks a simple penalty. Struggling for best form. 4.5