All Blacks in charge

South Africa 19 New Zealand 23
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Andre Markgraaff had the look of a beaten fighter. A split decision narrowly lost, the expression of utter frustration tinged with disbelief was understandable.

The Springbok coach has already been forced to go the distance in his short and troubled term in charge of the world champions. Two wins in six internationals - one of them against lowly Fiji - is a poor return, but Markgraaff's problems have not just been on the field. Recent disciplinary problems involving James Small and Os du Rant have not helped. Nor has an endless injury count that has robbed him of key players, including the Springboks' inspirational captain, Francois Pienaar.

This third straight defeat by the All Blacks has pushed the pressured Markgraaff to the limit, but the former Namibian international has handled it with dignity. "It would be easy to pretend that all the criticism doesn't get to you, but I'm human and it has hit home. I'm determined to see it through. I'm sure we can beat New Zealand in Pretoria next week. We have to beat them."

Beating this New Zealand side needs more than brave words, though. The All Blacks had started as if determined to end this first game in a three- Test series long before the scheduled finish. A third-minute try by Jeff Wilson, set up by Glen Osborne, who was retained ahead of a fit Jonah Lomu, signalled a first-half onslaught. Josh Kronfeld and Zinzan Brooke combined to give Christian Cullen space to crash over in the corner in the 22nd minute.

However, had Joel Stransky managed to land more than three of his seven first-half penalties, New Zealand might just have been in trouble. A 48th- minute try by Zinzan Brooke seemed to be enough for the All Blacks, but South Africa hammered their way back with a 59th-minute try by Darnie Van Schalkwyk that gave them hope. But New Zealand, typically, slammed the door.

The New Zealand coach, John Hart, attacked South Africa's two tactical substitutions late in the game. "The rules are quite clear. A player can only be replaced if he is injured. That wasn't the case here. I will be talking to the South African management this week to clear up the issue. While I agree that soccer-style substitutions would be a good thing for the game, until the laws are changed no team should be able to bend the rules."

South Africa: Try Van Schalkwyk. Conversion Stransky. Penalties Stransky 4.

New Zealand: Tries Wilson, Cullen, Z Brooke. Conversion Culhane. Penalties Culhane 2.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert (Natal); J Swart (Western Province), A Snyman (Northern Transvaal), D Van Schalkwyk (N Transvaal), P Hendriks (Transvaal); J Stransky (Western Province), J Roux (Transvaal); M Hurter (N Transvaal), H Tromp (N Transvaal), O du Randt (Orange Free State), H Strydom (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), G Teichmann (Natal, capt), A Venter (OFS), R Kruger (N Transvaal). Replacements: K Weise (Transvaal) for Strydom, 73; J van der Westhuizen ((N Transvaal) for Roux, 75

NEW ZEALAND: C Cullen (Manawatu); J Wilson (Otago), F Bunce (North Harbour), W Little (North Harbour), G Osborne (North Harbour); S Culhane (Southland), J Marshall (Canterbury); O Brown (Auckland), S Fitzpatrick (Auckland, capt), C Dowd (Auckland), R Brooke (Auckland), I Jones (North Harbour), Z Brooke (Auckland), J Kronfeld (Otago), M Jones (Auckland).

Referee: P Thomas (France).