New Zealand survived a second-half charge from South Africa to get their defence of the Rugby World Cup off to the perfect start with a 23-13 win in Yokohama.
South Africa were on top in the early stages, but All Blacks winger George Bridge bundled over after a devastating counter-attack to score the opening try of the game in the 23rd minute.
Steve Hansen’s side showed why they are favourites for the tournament as Anton Lienert-Brown burst through a gap in South Africa’s defence before finding Scott Barrett with an inside pass.
Barrett crossed over from close-range and Richie Mo’unga slotted home his second conversion as New Zealand went into the break with a 17-3 lead.
The Springboks flew out of the blocks after half-time and made the most of their momentum, with Pieter-Steph du Toit touching down in the 48th minute.
Handre Pollard converted to reduce the deficit to just seven points before pinging over a drop-goal to set up a tense finish at the International Stadium.
However, Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett took the game away from South Africa with a quickfire pair of penalties to secure victory for the reigning champions.
The result means New Zealand – champions in 2011 and 2015 – have won their last 15 matches in the competition.
South Africa will look to bounce back from their defeat when they face Namibia next Saturday, while New Zealand will attempt to extend their winning streak against Canada on October 2.
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