Springboks blow Tri Nations wide open
Exclusively for G&GR By James Heffield, Betfair journalist
The All Blacks lack of depth in crucial positions was exposed by a ruthless South African outfit on Saturday night as the visitors scored a thrilling and historic 30-28 Tri-Nations victory at Carisbrook, Dunedin.
In their eighth visit to the rugby relic, the Springboks picked up their first win, outscoring a green New Zealand side missing captain Richie McCaw and suspended lock Brad Thorn, two tries to one, and ending the All Blacks record run of 30 straight home victories.
But for all the celebrations and back-slapping after Australian referee Matt Goddard’s final whistle, the win was effectively due to one piece of brilliance from Springbok halfback Ricky Januarie five minutes from time.
Breaking the line past half way Januarie threw an audacious dummy before chipping the ball ahead into open space and regathering with all the grace of an NBA basketballer to level the scores at 28-all.
Francois Steyn’s conversion put the Springboks in front and although All Black first five Daniel Carter waited patiently in the pocket, a match-winning dropped goal proved to be too evasive.
The final whistle bought scenes of utter jubilation from the Springboks who, while being World Cup champions, had expressed a huge desire to achieve an elusive win in New Zealand, their first in a decade.
South Africa’s line-out was outstanding with captain Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha in form while the All Blacks were also able to win their own ball well despite the loss of Ali Williams to a head knock late in the first half.
Anthony Boric and Kevin O’Neill, boasting two test appearances between them, stepped up to the mark in the lineout and in general play and both appear to have bright futures.
Carter was again a dominant figure in the All Blacks backline, setting up substitute forward Sione Lauaki with New Zealand’s only try in the second half, while Ma’a Nonu had his busiest game in the black jersey.
Goddard had a forgettable night with the whistle, frequently stopping play to raise a point. This at times ruined the matches’ continuity, playing in to the Springboks hands as they battled with the speed of the game.
In the end it was the Springboks tireless defence that got them home sounding a huge warning to the Wallabies ahead of next weekend’s showdown in Perth. Australia will have to find gaps in a seemingly impenetrable Springbok defence, a less than easy task even with Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri and Stirling Mortlock in their ranks.
Lineout ball will also be at a premium and, although they were out-scrummed by the All Blacks, the Springbok pack is enormously powerful.
Robbie Deans’ men will have to be on their A-game as the Springboks chase their second win and the outright lead in the championship.
For New Zealand:
Pens: Carter 6
Drop goal: Carter
For South Africa:
Tries: Pietersen, Januarie
Pens: Montgomery 3, James 2
Drop goal: James
Yellow card: Matfield, high tackle (South Africa, 73 min)
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Rodney So’oialo (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Neemia Tialata, 18 Kevin O’Neill, 19 Sione Lauaki, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Leon MacDonald.
South Africa: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Butch James, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Britz, 17 Brian Mujati, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Francois Steyn, 22 Conrad Jantjes.
Referee: Matt Goddard
Assistants: James Leckie, Paul Marks
TMO: George Ayoub