Record-breaking flyhalf Morné Steyn won another series for South Africa, the first time since 1976 that the Springboks have beaten the All Blacks in a series, when he scored all his team’s points in their 31-19 Tri-Nations win in Durban on Saturday.
His performance in Durban follows after he also won the Test series against the British and Irish Lions last month – only this time he started the Test and finished in sublime style.
His 31 points consisted of a try, a conversion and eight penalties.
The rain came down in Durban and the team used to playing in dry conditions beat the team used to playing in wet conditions and they broke records doing it – that against the mighty All Blacks.
In doing it the Springboks won 73 percent of possession – against the mighty All Blacks. You had to pinch yourself to believe that it had happened. The Springboks were just so much better.
It was an evening of milestones at Absa Stadium in Durban.
For the Springboks it was a second win in succession over the All Blacks but most of the milestones belonged to individuals – 50 caps each for Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana, a world record for a lock pair for Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha with 49 Tests locked together, a world record of Test captaincies for John Smit as he goes to 60 and then all sorts of records for Morné Steyn.
All 31 points (and it could have been 34) – more than anybody else against New Zealand, more than anybody else in the Tri-Nations and the most penalties (eight) by a Springbok in a Test – and that against the mighty All Blacks.
Afterwards Richie McCaw admitted that the Springboks’ “pressure got on top of us”. And then he was gracious in his praise of the Springboks, as all the All Blacks have been, including coaches Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, but then All Black rugby has always had men of class.
The match started inauspiciously for the Springboks with the singing the host anthem first. Then it went to the alternative haka (minus the throat cut) and the Absa Stadium was not full – incredible as that may seem. And the Springboks lost the toss and played with the wind in the first half. The All Blacks are considered better than all teams in the second half and would then be wind-assisted. In fact they lost the second half 9-6 as the Springboks kept the choke chain on them.
Yet again penalties were a New Zealand problem – which is an irony as the Springboks have been regarded as those guilty of all manner of irregularity. The penalty count in the first Test was 11-8 against New Zealand; this time it was 14-5. That’s big, though South Africa lost the yellow cards two-to-one. That penalty count counted – 24 points to 12.
South Africa started on the attack when Stephen Donald dropped an up-and-under (Are they the most vulnerable top team in the world under the high kick?). Then Jimmy Cowan’s clearing kick was charged but Donald just saved. The Springboks stayed on the attack and caught Mils Muliaina as he caught an up-and -under. He held on and was penalised. Morné Steyn goaled. 3-0 after 4 minutes, but a minute later the All Blacks were back on level terms when Heinrich Brüssow was penalised and Donald goaled.
The All Blacks clearly set themselves the task of running with the ball from wherever they were on the field. They wanted a looser, less structured game. Their first try was a result of this policy. Morné Steyn kicked a diagonal to his left which nearly worked for Jaque Fourie but bounced into touch inside the All Blacks 22. Conrad Smith took a quick throw-in and McCaw raced down field and then it went wide left where Muliaina did well till the ball came back from a tackle/ruck. Cowan gave to Jerome Kaino who sent a brilliant, quick pass to Isaac Ross who scored in the left corner. From touch Donal goaled to give the All Blacks a 10-3 lead, and they stayed ahead for most of the half.
But Morné Steyn kept kicking the Springboks nearer. When McCaw was penalised at a tackle, it became 10-6 and when Kaino was offside it became 10-9. When JP Pietersen was penalised and yellowcarded for a horrible high tackle on Cowan, Donald made it 13-9 but Ross then won a yellow card and Steyn made it 13-12.
In this time there was a lot more rugby than just kicks, some of it exciting by both sides.
There was a bizarre moment when the All Blacks dropped the ball in a heavy tackle by Frans Steyn and Pietersen footed through into the New Zealand in-goal where Joe Rokocoko preferred to trying to run the ball out instead of doing the obvious and dotting down. After Bakkies Botha and Tendai Mtawarira had tackled Ma’a Nonu behind his line, the Springboks won a five-metre scrum. When Victor Matfield knocked on the All Blacks countered. Brüssow charged a kick which flew off at an angle to allow the All Blacks to run out of their 22 with a great run by Rokocoko and then Muliaina before Pietersen tackled Cowan high. When Juan Smith and Matfield were sloppy at a kick-off the All Blacks attacked through McCaw and Nonu but a knock-on foiled their effort.
From his own 22, Frans Steyn kicked a huge kick which rolled out for a line-out to New Zealand five metres from their own line. They overthrew it and Brüssow caught and started a bash at the All Blacks’ line. Botha bashed but a knock-on gave the All Blacks a scrum five metres from their line. At this stage Ross was in the sin bin and Nonu came onto the flank to try to shore up the New Zealand scrum. It did not work. The Springboks destroyed the New Zealand scrum and the ball squired out to Fourie du Preez who gave to Morné Steyn. The flyhalf cut back inside Cowan and then inside Donald to score a try which he – inevitably – converted.
Time was up when the All Blacks attacked but Muliaina knocked on and Nonu footed the ball carelessly to forward. Frans Steyn picked the ball up and hoofed it kilometres downfield with Bryan Habana haring after it. Conrad Smith got their first but he was under pressure and passed infield to the fragile hands of Sitiveni Sivivatu who knocked on. Springboks were homing in on the ball but Rodney So’oialo played it and Steyn kicked the penalty to make the score a handy 22-13 at the break.
Ross came back. While Pietersen was off the Springboks scored 10 points to 3. While Ross was off, the Springboks scored 13 to nil. When Botha was off in the second half each side scored 3 points.
The Springboks started the second half hammering at the New Zealand line till Juan Smith Knocked on. They stayed attacking, went through 11 phases, till Morné Steyn kicked a drop which bounced away of an upright.
When Du Preez lobbed a kick into New Zealand territory Sivivatu did not mark but broke out brilliantly and the Springboks were forced on desperate defence, which is where Botha was offside and sin-binned. Donald goaled the resulting penalty but then McCaw was penalised at a tackle. 25-16 after 56 minutes. John Smit was the next one penalised at a tackle and from a long, long way out replacement Luke McAlister goaled easily. 25-19 with 20 minutes to go. The All Blacks did not score again but Morné Steyn did – a penalty when Keven Mealamu was penalised at a tackle and then another when McCaw was offside. With 7 minutes to play, the Springboks led 31-19/
There were notable events in this time – the Beast racing down the right, Fourie footing through, Piri Weepu passing over his dead-ball line and a penalty against Bismarck du Plessis for using his shoulder at a tackle/ruck, conceding a penalty when the Springboks would have had a five-metre line-out.
Man of the Match: Despite great performances by all the Springboks, the obvious Man of the Match is Morné Steyn. When you give him the award ahead of Heinrich Brüssow, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Frans Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha then you know that the flyhalf, who did not start in the first Test, had a great game.
Moment of the Match: Isaac Ross’s try from the quick throw-in till the score. There was a temptation to suggest it should have been Joe Rokocoko’s aberration.
Villain of the Match: JP Pietersen’s tackle was ugly even if Jimmy Cowan did cut inside.
For South Africa:
Pens: Steyn 8
For New Zealand:
Pens: Donald 3, McAlister
Yellow cards: JP Pietersen (South Africa, 28 – foul play, high tackle), Isaac Ross (New Zealand, 31 – professional foul, playing from the wrong side), Bakkies Botha (South Africa, 51 – professional foul, tackle from offside)
South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (captain), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Wynand Olivier
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock,
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Cory Jane,
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)