South Africa 32 New Zealand 29
In the best Tri-Nations match of the series to date the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in Hamilton last night to claim the Tri-Nations Trophy outright. This is the first time the Boks have defeated NZ three matches in a row since 1949; they are deserved winners and look the best South African side in a generation.
The win was gained on the back of some huge penalty kicks by Francois Steyn from his side of halfway, not seen here before since Pierre Villepreux banged over a 70m penalty in 1968 during the Athletic Park test in Wellington (aided by a gale force wind behind him).
The Springboks dominated the majority of the game by returning to their kicking strategy that was previously so successful against the All Blacks. At one stage early in the second half they led by 17 points after a Jean de Villiers intercept try and a Bokke win was starting to look like a foregone conclusion. However, you can never assume a win against an All Black side and this proved to be the case.
The de Villiers try galvanised them as they ran the ball every which way but loose. In fact, Clyde the orangutan wouldn’t have looked out of place amongst the frantic and chaotic goings on as the All Blacks breathlessly attempted to recover from their dire circumstance. During this phase Barney Smit did a Dirty Harry on Brad Thorn in the tackle of the match, smashing the punk in half and making his day.
Graham Henry, in the director’s box, substituted Stephen Donald early in the second half. The Donald experiment at 2nd five eighth didn’t work and he was closely marked throughout his time on the park. He looked about as comfortable as Helen Clarke in a skirt. I suspect he’ll be taking his fistful of dollars and riding off into the sunset.
His replacement Toeava made a sudden impact, sparking a brilliant attack which led to a Sivivatu try. Another try to McCaw at the death, brilliantly conceived and converted by Carter (the All Blacks ‘million dollar baby’) left the match on a knife edge with the unthinkable a possibility. However, the Springboks stood up in the line of fire and left the Kiwis on heartbreak ridge – there was no escape from Alcatraz.
From an All Blacks perspective the match turned out to be a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good was the recovery in the second half, the bad was the mistake rate including a very poor handling performance by Nonu who dropped the ball at every conceivable opportunity and the ugly was the lineout. The All Blacks lost five of their own throws in a row in the first half in another inept display. The lineout stats to the Boks at halftime was 12-1. As Keith Richards would say, you can’t reach nirvana man without a pill.
The Springboks looked the better team right across the park until late in the match. Their lineout was immense and they used it as a springboard for attack. Surprisingly, their scrum dominated the All Black eight and drove forward like a suped up Gran Torino. Barney Smit turned it round big time from last week giving the Myth a bath. His workrate in general play was also high.
The Bokke loose forward trio played a blinder especially Spies and Burger (until he went off), a late replacement for Juan Smith. The All Black loosies weren’t too far behind, though. Morne Steyn kicked well in general play and Frans Steyn’s penalty kicks, especially those on his own 10m line were outstanding.
But the player of the match and the series for me was Fourie du Preez. His control at the back of the scrum is superb and his box kicking pinpoint in accuracy. He also scored the first Bokke try from a snipe at an attacking ruck. He has no peer in world rugby.
For the All Blacks Carter oozed class all night, and Read and McCaw put in the workrate. At the breakdown there was a degree of parity at ruck time and the All Blacks counter rucking was quite effective.
The only gay in the village did quite a good job controlling this match. What is it about Welsh referees….they are frequently officious and perhaps ummm…..a little anal? However, Nigel is warm and outgoing. He is very expressive with his signalling, which I suspect is related to his Welshness. I like his posture when he’s penalising a big boofy forward as the body language always suggests a man in control of, not only his destiny, but of his emotional well-being.
There is a firmness….. His Welsh lisp is like music to my ears and I was hoping he would break into Bread of Heaven – of course, he is an entertainer by trade. Perhaps he can pop into the Gold Coast on the way home where I can rub some sun lotion onto his…….mmmmm
If Graham Henry loses next week’s match against the Wallabies, he will be unforgiven.
South Africa 32 (J. de Villiers, F. du Preez tries; F. Steyn 3 pens; M. Steyn DG, 2 pens, 2 cons)
New Zealand 29 (S. Sivivatu, R. McCaw tries; D. Carter 2 cons, 5 pens) .