10 Tri-Nations Facts

Written by Clayton Saville (Clayton(PJLD))

Posted in :Tri Nations on 4 Aug 2008 at 13:20

Heres just a bit of trivia to help get Monday out of the way.

Article taken from and originally written by Mark van Dijk

Quick quiz: Who’s won the most Tri-Nations titles? Who’s scored the most Tri-Nations points? How many titles have the Springboks won? New Zealand. Andrew Mehrtens. Two. Easy. Easy. Easy.

But to be the guy who knows everything (or who sounds like he does), you have to know the facts and stats that nobody else knows. You have to know how many players have been red-carded in Tri-Nations Tests. You have to know whether or not any player has scored in every game of a series. You have to know whether Australia actually have any historical hope of winning their games in Joburg or Durban this coming August.

And you have to be able to say, “Ag, bonus points don’t make a difference anyway”… and know what you’re talking about.


Okay, so the Springboks don’t have the best record in the Tri-Nations. (Actually, they have the worst: just 19 wins in 50 Tests, compared to Australia’s 20 and New Zealand’s 35.) But at least they know how to get off to a good start. In 2004, Bok wing Jean de Villiers scored a try against New Zealand just 24 seconds after kick-off in Christchurch, setting the record for the fastest try in Tri-Nations history.

Two years later, again against the All Blacks (but this time in Wellington), Bok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez shocked the Kiwi fans with a try after just 15 seconds. Most of the folks watching at home on TV had barely opened the chip ’n dip.


Until that happy day in Dunedin this season, we kept hearing about how the Springboks had only ever won one Tri-Nations Test in New Zealand. But who’d have guessed that Australia have a similarly abysmal record in South Africa?

The Aussies have played 12 Tri-Nations games in the Republic, and they’ve only even won here once: a naalskraap 19-18 win in Durban in 2000. You might remember the game: it’s the one where Stirling Mortlock kicked over a last-minute penalty to give Australia their first Tri-Nations championship, and their first win in South Africa since 1992 (and their last since). What you may have forgotten is that Rassie Erasmus had a perfectly good try disallowed (nobody has yet been able to tell us why), and that Mortlock’s winning penalty came after referee Paul Honiss bizarrely penalised the Boks for a perfectly legitimate turnover.

So… ja. What we’re saying is that Australia have a piss-poor record in South Africa. And their only Tri-Nations victory here was, as we remember it, thoroughly undeserved.


… and, yes, you guessed it: that team was New Zealand. The All Blacks more or less wrapped up the 2003 Tri-Nations championship after their first two games, travelling to South Africa and hammering the Boks 16-52 (you may remember hearing some awful Van Riebeeck jokes at the time) in Pretoria before travelling to Sydney and thumping the Wallabies 50-21 a week later.

Their victory at Loftus was particularly impressive. Having gone 22-9 up by half-time, the All Blacks turned on the style in the second half, helping themselves to seven tries while the Springboks mooched around aimlessly, acting like they had better places to be. Seven days later they pulled off another seven-try romp at Telstra Stadium, handing the Aussies their heaviest defeat on home soil.

The All Blacks ended the 2003 series with a +100 points difference… and, of course, the Tri-Nations trophy.


… and it’s not New Zealand. Although they scored 55 points against the Boks in 1997 (in a 55-35 humdinger in Auckland), they’ve never cracked 60 points. Neither have Australia, who haven’t even scored 50 in a match (they came close in that 49-0 thumping of the Boks in Brisbane in 2006). No, the only team who’ve scored more than 60 points in a Tri-Nations Test match is… “Impi! wo ’nans’ impi iyeza!”… the Springboks.

We did it in 1997, in a 61-22 thumping of a hapless Australia in Pretoria.

Coming out of the half-time break with a narrow 18-15 lead, the Boks went on the rampage in the second half, with tries by Rassie Erasmus, James Dalton, Mark Andrews, Pieter Rossouw, Percy Montgomery (two), Warren Brosnihan and Jannie de Beer seeing to a record-breaking win. It was a great result, setting the Boks off on a run of 17 consecutive Test victories. It wasn’t, sadly, enough to save Bok coach Carel du Plessis from getting the sack.


If Werner Greeff had missed his after-the-hooter conversion of his just-before-the-hooter try against Australia in 2002, the game would have ended 31-31. But he didn’t. And – much to the delight of the Ellis Park crowd (and a nation watching on TV) – the Boks won 33-31 to gift the Tri-Nations title to New Zealand at the Aussies’ expense.

And because Greeff had his kicking boots on in that game, the stat of just one drawn match in what’s now 75 Tri-Nations Tests in total remains intact. That draw came in 2001, when the Springboks faced (you guessed it!) Australia in Perth. South Africa surged into an 8-3 half-time lead, before typically poor discipline in the second half (both Butch James and Bob Skinstad were yellow-carded) saw the Aussies fight back to 14-8. Braam van Straaten then converted two late penalties, as the match ended 14-14… leaving both sides to criticise the referee (for either being too soft or too hard on the Boks) for the frustrating result.


…and, as you’ve probably guessed, both were South Africans. The first was Andre Venter, who was sent off for stamping on All Blacks captain Shaun Fitzpatrick in Auckland in 1997. Though he protested innocence, Venter’s dismissal made life difficult for the Springbok forwards, and New Zealand used their one-man advantage to run away with a 55-35 victory. (Fitzpatrick later shrugged: “Ek was op die verkeerde plek op die regte tyd.”)

The second Springbok to disgrace himself was Marius Joubert, who was sent off for a high and dangerous tackle on Mat Rogers during the dramatic 2002 Test against Australia in Johannesburg.

You may recall the Boks also finishing their 2004 championship decider against the Aussies in Durban with just 13 men on the field: the result of having both Percy Montgomery and Breyton Paulse sin-binned in the dying minutes.


In 1997, a crowd of 90 199 souls crammed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Australia lose 33-18 to New Zealand in a Tri-Nations Test. Since then, Aussies have been packing their stadiums to the rafters to watch their Wallabies take on the All Blacks in the annual Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup showdowns.

In 1999, a whopping 107 042 of them filled Stadium Australia (a.k.a Telstra Stadium, a.k.a ANZ Stadium, a.k.a That Enormous Stadium Where They Held The Olympics In 2000) as Australia beat New Zealand 28-7. In 2001, only 90 978 fans bothered showing up as Australia beat New Zealand 29-26.

But on 15 July 2000, international rugby’s all-time attendance record (briefly shared by the 104 000 Jocks who watched Scotland play Wales at Murrayfield in 1975) was shattered. On that day, a huge crowd of 109 874 packed into Stadium Australia’s temporary seating, and were treated to one of the greatest Test matches of all time.

The All Blacks started spectacularly, scoring three tries in the first five minutes to take an unbelievable 21-0 lead. Australia – buoyed by the biggest crowd in history – somehow returned the favour, making the half-time score Australia 24 New Zealand 24. Things calmed down slightly in the second half, but with just seven minutes left Jeremy Paul crossed in the corner to put the Aussies 35-34 up. Jonah Lomu then scored a last-minute try to make it 39-35 to the All Blacks… finally silencing the enormous home crowd.


Now at first this sounds like an obvious stat. In every season but this one and 2006, each team has played four Tests. To score 100 points, a player would have to average 25 points per game, which is virtually impossible, considering the all-time record for the most points in a single Tri-Nations Test is 29 (Andrew Mehrtens, one conversion and nine penalties versus Australia in 1999).

But here’s the catch: in 2006, All Blacks superstar Dan Carter chalked up 99 points in six Tests, leaving him just half a kick away from triple figures. Carter’s haul included 12 against Australia (3c, 2p), 25 vs South Africa (2c, 7p), eight against Australia (1c, 1p, 1dg), 19 against Australia (2c, 5p), 20 against South Africa (4c, 4p) and 15 against South Africa (1t, 2c, 3p).

Strangely enough, Carter is just 98 points away from Mehrtens’s Tri-Nations record career points haul of 328… so if he manages 100 points this season, he’ll break two records at once.


And you’re thinking it’s Bryan Habana, or maybe the equally prolific Joe Rokocoko. But it’s neither. The only player to score at least one try in every match his team played in a Tri-Nations series was New Zealand legend Christian Cullen, in 2000. He dotted down once against Australia in Sydney, twice against South Africa in Christchurch, twice against Australia in Wellington, and then twice against South Africa in Joburg.

Other players have come close to Cullen’s record, without ever matching it. In 2004 Jean de Villiers touched down in three of South Africa’s four games, while Lote Tuqiri scored in three of Australia’s four games.

Cullen’s record would be pretty hard to beat… but it’s illustrative of his incredible record at fullback for the All Blacks. He amassed 46 tries in 58 Tests overall, and is still – after all these years – the leading all-time Tri-Nations try-scorer with 16.


Every year, in every Tri-Nations Test, there’s frantic talk of bonus points and how important they are. If your team’s losing by 10 points, you scream for them to grab a penalty, a drop goal, something!, to narrow the margin of defeat to seven – a result that would secure a ‘lucky loser’ bonus point on the log. And if your team is winning comfortably, but has only scored three tries, you demand a fourth to give you the four-tries bonus point that turns a four-log-point victory into a five-log-point victory.

And you know what? History reveals that those bonus points don’t make any difference at all.

When South Africa won the Tri-Nations in 2004, the Aussies sneered that we “only won it on bonus points”. True enough, all three teams won twice and lost twice, but South Africa’s three bonus points gave them 11 log points, while Australia’s two gave them 10 log points and New Zealand’s one gave them nine log points. But a closer look at the table reveals that South Africa had the best points difference… so they would have won the championship anyway.

Ditto 2005, when New Zealand and South Africa both won three Tests but New Zealand won the title “on bonus points” – by 15 log points to 13. Actually, the All Blacks beat the Boks on points difference in any case.

So go ahead: scream for the narrow defeat and the fourth try. But don’t expect those bonus points to win you the Tri-Nations.


  • Cool.

  • Comment 1, posted at 04.08.08 13:26:58 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply
    McLovinAssistant coach
  • That last point is grasping at straws. Good piece, though

  • Comment 2, posted at 04.08.08 13:29:01 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • But a closer look at the table reveals that South Africa had the best points difference… so they would have won the championship anyway.

    Honestly…you can call it PD or BONUS points…but it all comes down to

    that last gasp try or that narrow defeat!!!

  • Comment 3, posted at 04.08.08 13:42:03 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • Last point makes no sense actually. Points difference were irrelevant in the cases stated above. So bonus points are very valuable.

  • Comment 4, posted at 04.08.08 13:44:01 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • @ra-cheltjie de’ be-er (Comment 4) : SAme thing i thought, but then again this wasn’t meant to be a mentally stimulating piece, just a bit of a woohaa on Monday

  • Comment 5, posted at 04.08.08 13:53:01 by PJLD Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • @PJLD (Comment 5) : I love a bit of woohaa on a Monday. :cool:

  • Comment 6, posted at 04.08.08 13:57:23 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • Interesting article! What immediatly jumps out for me is that one can look at a game vitually the way YOU want to. I therefor believe in objectivity. And that does NOT diminish your loyalty to your team, nor does it make you a less passionate supporter. It does lend a certain dignity and also value to one’s observations! That is for all the ONE-EYED supporters out there!!!

  • Comment 7, posted at 04.08.08 13:59:25 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver FoxCurrie Cup player
  • :razz:

  • Comment 8, posted at 04.08.08 13:59:54 by PJLD Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • Good stuff PLJD. Good read.

  • Comment 9, posted at 04.08.08 14:03:47 by VinChainSaw Reply
    VinChainSawTeam captain
  • I must question the timing of this piece of “woohaa”, its almost as if it was posted to take away the “boooowhaaa” attention away from the Province performance.

  • Comment 10, posted at 04.08.08 14:07:17 by Salmonoid Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the SubtleAssistant coach
  • Interesting stuff!!!Lets hope the Wallabies difficulties in SA continues :evil:

  • Comment 11, posted at 04.08.08 14:15:16 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
    Assistant coach
  • #

    @PJLD (Comment 5) : I love a bit of woohaa on a Monday. :cool:
    Comment 6, posted at 04.08.08 13:57:23 by ra-cheltjie de’ be-er

    As well as wet kaalgat peaches… :shock:

  • Comment 12, posted at 04.08.08 14:37:15 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 12) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 13, posted at 04.08.08 14:56:27 by ra-cheltjie de' be-er Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • One interesting fact is that by reading this article that Paul Honiss actually cheated the Boks out of 2 games. The one in this article and the one where he said to John Smit talk to your players and then allowed the Irish to carry on playing whilst the Boks were still in a huddle in one corner.

  • Comment 14, posted at 04.08.08 23:06:10 by Dynamite Reply

    DynamiteVodacom Cup player

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