As expected, a superior All Blacks team showed the skill and precision to put a bruised and battered Springbok team to the sword. Our resident masochist STYLI CHARALAMBOUS reviews the 40 -7 Tri-Nations drubbing.
This team and management had already been taking heavy artillery fire after last week’s dismal performance against the Wallabies. As a result, despondent Bok fans were hoping for a more determined performance from their team. And in some areas of this Test match, the Boks managed to do so. But on the whole, this All Blacks team showed the South Africans that Test match rugby is just that much quicker, and harder, than the Super Rugby level most of this starting line-up are used to.
Even before the kick-off, the signs were this was going to be a night to forget for the Boks. When Ras Dumisani butchered the South African national anthem in Paris, many were convinced the singer must have been stoned out of his mind to deliver such a pathetic performance. So when Ainslee Allen’s performance of the same anthem was delivered, idols judges around the world would have salivated at the opportunity to belittle and insult a performance that included several instances of forgotten lyrics.
The All Blacks performed the haka, in the new version of their jersey, to 11 Springbok players who would had never before witnessed the greatest sports tradition and rugby challenge in person. This fact alone would have filled even the most ardent Bok fan with fear, for what was about to unfold.
Neither the captain, nor the management made mention this week of the influence the referee may have on this game. Alain Rolland is fast becoming the nemesis of the men in green and gold, and when the first two penalties had been awarded inside two minutes of the start, parents watching with young kids were thankful that no microphones were set-up in the Bok coaching booth.
Dan Carter, with the first kickable penalty of the game, put the All Blacks into the lead after two minutes, and at the same time, broke Johnnie Wilkinson’s Test point world record of 1,195 points. The irony would later unfold that on the evening this record was achieved, the Wellington winds conspired to make it rather poor evening off the kicking tee for Carter.
In a near repeat of the opening stanza of last week’s match, the Boks were soon standing under their uprights, after two long-range tries had opened the try scoring for their opponents. The first, inspired by a Jimmy Cowan break, led to a number of rucks and recycling of the ball that ended with man-mountain Wyatt Crocket diving over in the 11th minute, taking the score to 8-0. Crocket would have been pleased with the way in which he carried on his try-scoring and scrumming performance of this year’s Super Rugby campaign.
As with last week, poor defence from the kick-off led to the second try. Dan Carter received the ball in his 22m zone and showed off some magic to grubber past the advancing line that sat up beautifully for centre Ma’a Nonu, who crossed the advantage line. Carter, in support, then drew three defenders to offload to the flying finisher, Zac Guildford who ran 50m to open his account against the Boks. With Carter missing the conversion, the score remained 13-0, after 15 minutes.
The poor Springbok lineout performance extended into this match, with a couple of skewed throws and miscommunication turning over much-needed possession to their dominant opponents. The All Black loose trio of Thompson, Kaino and McCaw, were successful the entire evening in slowing down the breakdown ball and managed to steal possession on numerous occasions.
The Boks did show more resolve this week, and there was a period in the first half when they managed to maintain possession for three consecutive minutes, only for Rolland to show why he is at best an amateur referee, and added to a sense of travesty that a referee as skilled as Mark Lawrence will not make the trip to RWC 2011.
Up until the 28th minute, the Boks never looked dangerous enough to cross the Kiwi tryline. But some inspired captaincy from Smit, saw them elect the lineout option from a penalty, instead of a kick at poles, that once recycled through a ruck, saw the captain barge his way through two defenders and score under the poles to bring the travelling team back into the game. A conversion by Morné Steyn brought the score to 13-7, and a long-shot ray of hope to despondent fans braving the morning chill back home.
That hope was rather comprehensively dashed seven minutes later when, after a period of aerial rugby ping-pong, winger Bjorn Basson handed the All Blacks possession, in space for Corey Jane to dance around John Smit’s efforts and leave the out-of-depth Morné Steyn face-planted in the turf as he ran in the 3rd try for the home team. Going into half-time, 18-7 up, the scoreboard belied the dominance over the visitors, where the other stats did not. Although territory and possession showed how the Boks had improved in these areas, the 13 missed tackles and turnover count laid the blueprint for what was going to unfold in the next 40 minutes.
When Nonu was adjudged to be held up in the tackle over the line, shortly after the restart, the Boks had managed only to stave off the inevitable. The resulting scrum ended up albeit slightly scrappily in the hands of winger Corey Jane, to cross over for the bonus point try in the 45th minute with Carter’s kicking compass struggling in the wind, and failed with his 3rd conversion attempt in a row, but made amends with a penalty, only three minutes later.
With some substitutions, came the injection of fresh legs and a John Smit offload to Chilliboy Ralepelle had the replacement hooker showing good pace and skill to advance the Bok challenge 30m and just short of the tryline. Rolland again snuffed out this Bok challenge with a dubious call and that was the last time Pieter de Villiers’ men would come close to scoring in the remainder of this awful match.
Guildford was over for his second try of the evening, in the 63rd minute, after the ball had been moved from side to side and the Bok defence had been stretched as wide as a pair of Kobus Wiese’s tracksuit pants. And when Colin Slade added the sixth try in the 71st minute, the All Blacks looked set to break the all-time points difference score between these two proud rugby nations. However, the Boks managed to prevent that ignominious accolade from being bestowed on this team.
In no way can this defeat be attributed solely to a poor refereeing performance, as many one-eyed fans will lament at the water cooler come Monday morning. The defensive lapses and turnover count meant the Boks were only ever contesting for second place. This Bok side simply isn’t in the same league as their opponents.
For this reason the All Blacks will not read too much in the score line, or the fact that they never got into 5th gear, mainly because they didn’t need to. This was an exercise in stretching their legs against the old enemy and for the Boks to allow some inexperienced players international game time.
For a better barometer of the Boks chances, look to the home leg matches of the Tri-Nations where many of the “injured” stalwarts of this team will return. Until then, take the abuse from your Australasian friends and look forward to what will most likely be the deciding match of the Tri-Nations, when the peaking Australians take on the New Zealanders in the stadium that will host the final of this year’s World Cup, Auckland's Eden Park next week. DM
Scorers for New Zealand
Tries: Crockett, Guildford (2), Jane (2), Slade
Penalties: Carter (2)
Conversions: Carter (2)
Scorers for South Africa
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Allain Rolland
All Blacks -15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.
Springboks – 15 Morné Steyn, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Dean Greyling
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Ryan Kankowski, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Odwa Ndungane
Photo: Ali Williams (L) of New Zealand's All Blacks is tackled by Alistair Hargreaves of South Africa's Springboks during their Tri-Nations rugby union match in Wellington July 30, 2011. REUTERS/Anthony Phelps.