Fitzpatrick in captain's knock

South Africa 19 New Zealand 23
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Sean Fitzpatrick, Test rugby's toughest old soldier, typically dug deep to lead the All Blacks to victory at Durban's Kings Park yesterday. The New Zealand captain and hooker needed all his experience to rally his side as South Africa launched a fierce second-half offensive.

New Zealand dominated play in the first half and their two-try return was hardly just reward. Indeed, had the South African stand-off, Joel Stransky, connected with more than three of his seven first-half penalty attempts, the All Blacks could well have found themselves trailing at half-time. That would have been ludicrous because from the moment Jeff Wilson crashed over in the third minute, the All Blacks looked in control. Glen Osborne, retained ahead of the recovered Jonah Lomu, set up the move with a break down the left flank. As the ball was spun wide to the right, the All Black centre Frank Bunce unloaded to give Wilson just the space he needed.

Simon Culhane, brought into the side to replace the injured stand-off Andrew Mehrtens, exchanged penalties with Stransky before the All Blacks struck again. In the 22nd minute, Josh Kronfeld burst through the South African defence. Again, the second-phase ball was quickly delivered out wide and Zinzan Brooke's quick hands gave Christian Cullen just enough room to power over in the corner.

Stransky connected with two more penalties to cut the New Zealand lead to 15-9, but a Culhane penalty goal early in the second half pushed the advantage out to nine points. New Zealand ignored another Stransky penalty to score their third try in the 48th minute. Bunce instigated the move with a kick ahead that Wilson chased down to set up possession inside the South African 22. Fitzpatrick arrived at the right moment to hand the ball to Brooke, who touched down.

Leading 23-12, the game should have been safely in the hands of the All Blacks. But in the 59th minute Danie Van Scharkwik, making his Test debut, bundled his way over to reward South Africa for their second-half revival. Stransky added the conversion to pressure New Zealand again.

Fitzpatrick, however, was in no mood to retreat. He urged his men forward as the clock ticked down and a penalty awarded in the 68th minute gave New Zealand the breather they sought. Fitzpatrick, at the heart of the surge, clashed with the South African captain, Gary Teichmann, as the whistle blew for the infringement. Then as Fitzpatrick picked himself up, he narrowly avoided a beer can and bottle hurled from the crowd. Fitzpatrick ignored the incident and instead rallied his team for a last effort. That was all they needed.

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); O du Randt (OFS), H Tromp (N Transvaal), M Hurter (N Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), H Strydom (Transvaal), R Kruger (N Transvaal), G Teichmann (Natal), A Venter (OFS). 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); C Dowd (Auckland), S Fitzpatrick (Auckland), O Brown (Auckland), I Jones (North Harbour), R Brooke (Auckland), J Kronfeld (Otago), Z Brooke (Auckland ),M Jones (Auckland).

Referee: P Thomas (France).