A series of extraordinary blunders made by the All Blacks in this Tri-Nations Test in Durban gifted South Africa 22 points in the first half alone. This was kindergarten stuff, the simplest of errors which cost them dearly. Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn scored 31 points, the highest by an individual player from either country in the history of matches between these sides, also breaking Andrew Mehrtens' Tri-Nations record of 29 set in 1999.
South Africa coach Peter de Villiers had at last realised he had to have a proper goal kicker in his team and Steyn duly exacted a heavy toll on all the mistakes. By half-time, he had kicked five penalty goals and converted his own try, which came courtesy of a mistake by Joe Rokocoko in attempting to run out from behind his own line instead of kicking clear.
To see a New Zealand side make so many errors was bewildering. The All Blacks had adopted a far more expansive game plan, but in the rain which fell increasingly heavily, that was a terrible risk at times. Not even high kicks into the All Black 22 were marked. The New Zealanders were simply too in-disciplined to have much hope of turning around the previous week's loss to the Springboks in Bloemfontein. "When you get pinned in your own half, you're forced into mistakes," said the All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. "And when you have to play flat-footed in the face of that kind of pressure, it becomes really tough."
South Africa made a powerful start full of intent yet after each side had exchanged early penalties, it was New Zealand who scored the first try. They won a quick line-out throw, McCaw surged away and when the play switched left, Ma'a Nonu made good yards before Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino put lock Isaac Ross over wide out. Stephen Donald's conversion made it 10-3 to New Zealand.
But McCaw then handled at the ruck and Kaino was penalised a second time for not binding. South Africa went ahead decisively three minutes before half-time through Steyn's try, following a wrecked All Black scrum. There was even time for Steyn to add a fifth penalty before half-time after another New Zealand error.
The uncertainty and lack of composure in the New Zealand game was incredible. McCaw was at fault again, twice giving away penalties for handling the ball at the ruck when off his feet. In each case, Steyn banged over the penalties to add to his record-breaking points tally.
"The guys just did what we practice all the time," said De Villiers. "And they are the kind of team that will go big tonight in celebration and, tomorrow, when we land in Cape Town, the focus will be completely on beating Australia next week."
South Africa: F Steyn; JP Pietersen, J Fourie (W Olivier, 78), J De Villiers (A Jacobs 71 mins), B Habana; M Steyn, F Du Preez (R Januarie, 78); T Mtawarira, B Du Plessis (C Ralepelle, 79), J Smit (capt) (J Du Plessis, 77), B Botha (A Bekker, 77), V Matfield, H Brussow, J Smith (D Rossouw, 66), P Spies.
New Zealand: M Muliaina; J Rokocoko, C Smith, M Nonu, S Sivivatu; S Donald (L McAlister, 61), J Cowan (P Weepu 44 ); A Woodcock, A Hore (K Mealamu 44; Hore, 77), O Franks (J Afoa, 66), B Thorn, I Ross, J Kaino, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo. Referee: N Owens (Wales).Reuse content