A world-champion performance, but not from the world champions. The Springboks were swept away by the power, pace and continuity of New Zealand in Auckland. A victory by four tries to nil, with a bonus point, gave the All Blacks a flying start to the Tri-Nations and posted a warning to the world.
When New Zealand play like this, as they did against France in Marseilles in November, no team can hold them. Their work with the ball among forwards and backs, at close quarters and under pressure, was outstanding.
The Springboks did not help themselves, the lock Bakkies Botha being sent to the sin-bin for slowing down play, an offence that was spotted by the referee, Alan Lewis. The Irishman had missed a wild, nasty head-butt by Botha on the All Blacks' scrum-half, Jimmy Cowan, in the second minute. The Springbok "enforcer" was cited and another lengthy suspension looms.
In Botha's absence, New Zealand established a 10-3 lead with Conrad Smith's brilliant 18th-minute try. It was started with a terrific counterattack by the full-back Mils Muliaina, who had a magnificent game. The sheer verve of the All Blacks was too much for their old foes. Gaining supremacy in the scrum and snatching three Springbok line-outs, they took charge. Continuity, pace and movement, with rapidly recycled ball at the breakdown, enabled Ma'a Nonu to score a second try before the break.
New Zealand led 20-3 at half-time and then, briefly, went off the boil. Morne Steyn kicked two penalties. But the No 8 Kieran Read smashed through for a third All Black try on the hour and the prop Tony Woodcock got the fourth just before the end.
The New Zealand captain, Richie McCaw, said: "It's been a long time since we have had as good a performance as that over the full 80 minutes. That is the benchmark now and there can be no excuses. But I think the motivation and desire to win was strong after our three defeats by South Africa last year. We had waited 12 months for this chance and we took it."
The Springbok captain, John Smit, did not attempt to defend Botha, saying: "I don't approve of any play that is outside the rules. If he has been, I am sure he will be punished.
"The All Blacks were really good, they played with pace and were better than us in every facet. The lights were out for us tonight and the only positive is, we can't get any worse next week in Wellington. It was a poor display."
New Zealand M Muliaina; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Rokocoko (R Kahui, 57); D Carter, J Cowan (P Weepu, 54); T Woodcock, K Mealamu (C Flynn, 78), O Franks (B Franks, 64), B Thorn, T Donnelly (S Whitelock, 72), J Kaino (L Messam, 74), K Read, R McCaw (capt).
South Africa Z Kirchner; J de Villiers, J Fourie, W Olivier (G Aplon, 72), B Habana; M Steyn (B James, 71), R Januarie (R Pienaar, 74); G Steenkamp, J Smit (capt; C Ralapelle, 72), J du Plessis (BJ Botha, 58), B Botha (A Bekker, 51), V Matfield, S Burger, P Spies, F Louw (D Rossouw, 51).
Referee A Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content