Bloemfontein – South Africa were full value for their win in their first Tri-Nations outing of the 2009 competition when they beat the All Blacks 28-19 and regained the first place on the world rankings from the New Zealanders. courtesy of SAPA
An impressive performance by the Springbok pack who took an early stranglehold on proceedings and thereafter only let the All Blacks in sporadically set the platform for the victory, despite some poor goal kicking from Ruan Pienaar who slotted only one from five attempts.
It was the Springboks’ first win over the All Blacks in Bloemfontein after they had drawn one in 1960 and lost in 1976.
Behind the pack, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez as usual controlled matters like the rugby general he is and played a major part in the territorial advantage the Boks enjoyed in the match.
After a fairly even start to the match, the Springboks took control towards the end of the first quarter. They played most of the rugby because they had most of the ball, and the Boks’ defence was outstanding when the All Blacks tried to run at them.
More often than not the Kiwis lost the ball in the tackle or under pressure, and if it had not been for four missed kicks – three penalties and a conversion – from five attempts by Pienaar, their plight would have been huge at the break.
The Springboks drove from the lineouts where, as expected, they had good possession, scrummed well enough to give the backs clean possession and varied their play well, with the backs getting a fair amount of possession.
They also had the better of the breakdown battle because of numbers to the breakdowns and some aggressive rucking. Heinrich Brussow, in his first Test battle against the great Richie McCaw was adjudged Man of the Match on his home ground.
The All Blacks did threaten on a number of occasions in the first half, but good covering tackles saw them pulled back and ensuing deep kicks from lost possession frustrated the visitors and gave the Boks the chance to regain territory.
The All Blacks took an early lead after a fourth minute penalty by flyhalf Stephen Donald. He kicked an easy kick following a late tackle by Jean de Villiers, but Frans Steyn drew the Boks square when he slotted one of his big ones from about 53 metres out after the All Blacks were penalised for not rolling away.
Pienaar then struck the uprights twice in the 11th and 13th minutes, and the crowd responded by chanting “Morne Steyn, Morne Steyn.”
The Bulls pivot came on after halftime and responded by kicking a long, straight kick from 46 metres out two minutes after the break.
But earlier, Donald had missed a straight kick from 46 metres out after 15 minutes and Pienaar at last got on the board when the All Blacks were penalised for bringing down a maul (6-3).
Then came the Boks’ first try, and this time Pienaar deserves the credit for some fine work.
He scored after a run around after Pierre Spies was tackled on the line following a series of scrums and rucks on All Blacks line. Jean de Villiers made a half break but was well-tackled.
He passed to Pienaar who had doubled around to the outside to score near the corner. He missed the conversion (11-3) but Frans Steyn slotted his second as Pienaar was receiving attention and the Boks were up 14-3 after 32 minutes.
That remained the score until Morne Steyn’s penalty just after the break.
And then the All Blacks cut loose with three good runs. Aided by some poor defence by the Springboks, Conrad Smith cut through in the 46th minute.
With Donald converting and adding a penalty five minutes later, the visitors were back in the game at 17-13.
Morne Steyn increased the lead to 20-13 six minutes later after the All Blacks had quelled a Springboks attack by driving their forwards back time and time again from drives around the rucks to gain about 30 metres.
The three points were welcome, but the Boks should have done better from that possession. And then the All Blacks threatened with 12 good phases before the stretched Boks defence could hold no more and they were penalised for Donald to make it 20-16 with 17 minutes to go.
The game was clinched with little more than eight minutes to go when the All Blacks, in complete control inside the South African 22, played silly games in clearing the ball.
It was dropped by Jason Eaton, kicked through by Spies and from an All Blacks shambles in collecting the ball just outside their 22 the ball was given to Jaque Fourie who scored in the corner (25-16).
New Zealand now had to score twice to take the spoils. The plot thickened as Donald pulled three points back with a penalty, but it was too little and another Morne Steyn penalty sealed the game at 28-19.
South Africa: Tries – Ruan Pienaar, Jaque Fourie. Penalties – Morne Steyn (3), Francois Steyn (2), Pienaar
New Zealand: Try – Conrad Smith. Conversion – Stephen Donald. Penalties – Donald (4)