Botha's bravery seals brutal win for Boks

South Africa 22 New Zealand 16
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The Independent Online

The Springboks snatched an astonishing 13-point lead in the first nine minutes and set out a marker for the physical contest to come. Byron Kelleher was smashed out of the game by Victor Matfield and high-octane tackles proliferated. This was legalised violence.

New Zealand had set the tone before the start. Their coach, Graham Henry, stood taut and erect beside his men. His face, pugnacious and unsmiling, was set in Churchillian stone. His men went to battle in the image of their leader.

But they found a South African side willing and able to match them. The terrier-like scrum-half Ricky Januarie took on anyone, the more the better from his point of view. There was not a single All Black too big for him. Burger and the man of the match, Bakkies Botha,sacrificed their bodies for the cause.

South Africa's early lead came from a Jean de Villiers interception try from 75 metres and a Percy Montgomery penalty, plus an Andre Pretorius drop goal. The All Blacks then hit back, Collins working Rico Gear into the right corner with a floated pass, and Daniel Carter pulling them level at 13-13 before Montgomery landed his second penalty for a 16-13 half- time home lead.

South Africa fought with such pride and guts that even so technically accomplished a New Zealand side could not quell their fire and fervour.

At times the Springbok defence creaked like a barn door on rusty hinges. But it held, for the most part, through a combination of clever reading of the game and sheer bravery. Where South Africa were deficient was in the precision that the All Blacks brought to the game. The way they worked players into space and their intuitive reading of the game was an object lesson in cunning and class.

But the Boks played in the All Blacks' faces, forcing even Carter to spill a simple ball in his own 22. Montgomery calmly slotted further penalties after 48 and 53 minutes to make it 22-13. To see such world-class players making elementary errors was testimony to the awesome pressure involved.

Carter replied with his third penalty seven minutes from time, but it was not enough, and for South Africa to have won this Test was a huge reaffirmation of their tenacity, quality and commitment. Even when the ever-dangerous Carter and Gear broke through late on, deep into the South African 22, last-gasp tackles stopped match-winning scores.

All the recent World Cups have been won by the side with the best defence. South Africa showed yesterday they now have one of the best in the business.

South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana; A Pretorius, E Januarie (F du Preez, 60); O du Randt (G Steenkamp, 60), J Smit (capt.), C J van der Linde, B Botha, V Matfield, S Burger, J Smith, J van Niekerk (J Cronje, 75).

New Zealand: L McDonald (J Rokocoko, 68); R Gear, T Umaga (capt; L McAlister, 76), A Mauger, M Muliaina; D Carter, B Kelleher (P Weepu, 9); A Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Hayman (G Somerville, 68), C Jack, A Williams, J Collins, R McCaw, R So'oialo.

Referee: A Cole (Australia).