South Africa claimed their first major scalp under their coach Jake White by coming from behind to beat the All Blacks in Johannesburg.
A hat-trick of tries by the Springbok centre Marius Joubert, only the second ever by a South African against New Zealand, gave his side victory and a crucial bonus point. If they beat Australia in Durban next Saturday, South Africa will win the Tri-Nations title in White's first year as coach.
The Springboks' new spirit and hunger to succeed was evident yesterday. They made an atrocious start, trailing 10-0 after only seven minutes thanks to Mils Muliaina's try and a conversion and penalty from Andrew Mehrtens. But sheer willpower hauled them back into the match. Not even some erratic kicking by the full-back Percy Montgomery, who succeeded with only four of his nine attempts at goal, denied them.
New Zealand seemed unaware of the need to build a platform, and at times threw the ball around as though it were a sevens match. South Africa fed hungrily on their mistakes and their line-out was improved thanks to the recall of Victor Matfield and John Smit's better throwing.
They led 19-13 at half-time but then the two sides each edged ahead, only to lose the lead. At 26-25 to New Zealand with 17 minutes remaining, Joubert broke from a scrum and put the winger Jean de Villiers over for an unconverted try. Montgomery added a penalty and when Joubert seized Jacques Cronje's inside pass for a try at the posts, the hosts were finally clear.
They owed much to the excellence of the No 8 Joe van Niekerk, who made Joubert's first try, but all four first-half tries were as much down to woeful defence.
South Africa's comeback began with Joubert's 22nd minute try, which Montgomery converted. A poor pass by Mehrtens, who was often exposed defensively, then led to a breakaway try by Breyton Paulse and before the break Joubert exposed a drift defence to score at the posts.
The Welsh referee, Nigel Williams, pulled a muscle after 12 minutes and was replaced by Ireland's Donal Courtney. He penalised both teams heavily and Mehrtens and Montgomery exchanged penalties early in the second half to make it 22-16. But when the winger Joe Rokocoko smashed through for a try by the posts, New Zealand led by a point. Montgomery and Mehrtens again exchanged penalties as New Zealand held on, but De Villiers' try broke the pattern and South Africa finished much the stronger.
The Springboks still conceded far too many penalties but the work of players like Paulse in defence, plus Jaco van der Westhuyzen's improved kicking game, lifted them.
South Africa's season will receive a substantial boost if they beat Australia next week. For the All Blacks, it is back to the drawing board. Their game-plan looked a muddle and there were too few players standing up to be counted. Their coach, Graham Henry, will be a worried man after his team's second defeat in a week.
South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, M Joubert, D Barry, J de Villiers; J van der Westhuyzen, B Conradie (F du Preez, 44); O du Randt (CJ van der Linde, 70), J Smit (capt), E Andrews (H Shimange, 79), B Botha (AJ Venter, 61), V Matfield, S Burger, J van Niekerk (J Cronje, 67), G Britz.
New Zealand: M Muliaina, D Howlett, T Umaga (capt), S Tuitupou (A Mauger, 75), J Rokocoko; A Mehrtens, J Marshall (B Kelleher, 72); K Meeuws (G Somerville, 62), K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, S Maling, J Gibbes, X Rush, M Holah (C Newby, 59).
Referee: N Williams (Wales) rep by D Courtney (Ireland), 12 mins
- More about:
- All Blacks
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Southern Africa