Rugby Union: Tempers inflamed by fiery Test: Defeat by All Blacks leaves South Africans complaining and counting cost

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The Independent Online
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PIETER MULLER will miss the remainder of South Africa's tour of New Zealand with a serious neck injury. The centre tore ligaments and damaged vertebrae in Saturday's first Test defeat by New Zealand in Dunedin.

Balie Swart, helped off during the game, may also be out of the rest of the three-Test series. The prop will be examined by a neurosurgeon today. He is thought to have suffered concussion and this would mean an automatic break of three weeks from rugby.

Two South African forwards have already returned home with injuries. The flanker, Wahl Bartmann, damaged a shoulder in the second tour match against Counties and the lock, Kobus Wiese, suffered a knee injury against Southland a week ago.

Muller is one of only two Springboks to have appeared in all 15 Tests since the country was readmitted to international rugby in 1992. The other is the wing, James Small.

Muller said: 'I felt my neck go at a ruck just before half- time but I didn't want to leave the field and played on.' No announcement on a replacement will be made until today at the very earliest.

New Zealand also finished a fiercely contested Test with injury problems. The lock Ian Jones has a hairline fracture of his right cheekbone. He misses the second Test, in Wellington in a fortnight's time, and possibly the third, in Auckland on 6 August.

The final Tests are likely to be fiery affairs after the South Africans complained of illegalities by Richard Loe, the New Zealand prop, on Saturday. The centre Brendan Venter was reported to have described Loe's tactics as 'a discredit to the game' after the match. 'He shouldn't even be playing rugby. He didn't touch the ball once. All he does is see who he can kick or hit,' Venter said.

Loe was recalled by the All Blacks this year after missing last season because of a six- month suspension for eye- gouging. Meanwhile, several players on both sides were warned for off-the-ball clashes and the South African scrum- half, Johan Roux, was lucky to escape with a caution after stamping on Sean Fitzpatrick, the home captain.

New Zealand led by four penalties to one at the interval, but the match then came alive when the full-back Andre Joubert first kicked a penalty and next opened up the All Black defence to set up a try for Rudolf Straeuli.

However, the All Blacks, beaten in the recently completed home series against France, raised their game and John Kirwan ran through on an overlap to score after a drive by Mike Brewer and a pass from Zinzan Brooke.

New Zealand: Try: Kirwan. Conversion: Howarth. Penalties: Howarth 5.

South Africa: Try: Straeuli. Penalties: Joubert 3.

NEW ZEALAND: S Howarth; J Kirwan, F Bunce, A Ieremia, J Timu; S Bachop, G Bachop; O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), R Loe, M Cooksley, I Jones, Z Brooke, M Brewer, B Larsen. Replacement: A Pene for Jones, 9; C Dowd for Pene, 75.

SOUTH AFRICA: A Joubert; J Small, P Muller, B Venter, C Williams; H le Roux, J Roux; J le Roux, J Allan, B Swart, S Atherton, M Andrews, A Richter, R Straeuli, T Strauss (capt). Replacement: G Kebble for Swart, 23.

Referee: B Stirling (Ireland).