Rugby Union: `Fatigued and finished' but worthy of praise

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THE South African Rugby Football Union, not normally given to acts of contrition, has apologised to Springboks supporters for falling short of a world record 18 consecutive Test victories. "So we didn't beat the New Zealand record for consecutive wins. We equalled it. It's still an awesome achievement," Sarfu said in a newspaper advertisement.

The ad, which was headlined "Seventeen Consecutive Wins - Sorry", featured a photograph of full-back Percy Montgomery with a hand over his forehead.

"We're still the undisputed world champions. Nick Mallett has proven to be the most successful Springbok coach ever. And our sponsors continue their generous support."

South African newspapers blamed fatigue for the defeat. "It was a shattering failure at the final hurdle and ultimately confirmed the folly of trying to draw too much from players whose bodies could withstand only so much," the Sunday Times said. "The Springboks looked fatigued and finished. And they were.

"It was a desperately disappointing end to a season in which South Africa scaled so many heights. Yesterday they were witness to a wreckage."