Mallett muses over missed chances

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The Independent Online

The South African coach, Nick Mallett, was left lamenting his side's inability to take their chances after their latest Tri-Nations Test defeat here on Saturday.

The South African coach, Nick Mallett, was left lamenting his side's inability to take their chances after their latest Tri-Nations Test defeat here on Saturday.

Two missed opportunities cost the Springboks dear in a game littered with penalties handed out by the English referee, Chris White, and lacking the intensity of last weekend's Bledisloe Cup match between the All Blacks and Australia.

The South Africans lacked the killer punch that saw the New Zealand full-back Christian Cullen grab the only two tries of the game, the first after a mistake by his Springbok counterpart Percy Montgomery, the second from a line-out on the visitors' line.

"They converted both of their opportunities," said Mallett. "We had a couple through Breyton Paulse, but didn't manage to take it. I think it was a great effort from our guys not to concede a try when we were down to 14 men in the end."

But Mallett did recognise improvement following the Mandela Challenge Trophy collapse against Australia two weeks ago and the loss to England in the Bloemfontein Test.

"I was very keen to look for some progress from our game against Australia and I think the team showed through a lot of phases that we can actually play rugby that is competitive," he said. "After the Test between Australia and New Zealand last week, anything we produced today would have been a slight let down.

"I was very proud of the way our guys defended. We forced New Zealand to score through kicks ahead as opposed to constructing phases and breaking us down. Against a very good defence we didn't get the reward, but if we had played like that against England, I believe we would have beaten them. So there is progress," he said.

There was more gloom for Mallett with the news that Rassie Erasmus, Willie Meyer and lock Selborne Boome will miss this weekend's meeting with Australia in Sydney.

The Natal Sharks forwards Mark Andrews and A J Venter have been called up in a bid to remedy the injury crisis after Erasmus fractured a rib. Meyer, a 66th-minute replacement for Cobus Visagie at tighthead prop, took a heavy knock at the end of the game.

The Cats player will spend three weeks on the sidelines after suffering a grade-one concussion following a collision with Jonah Lomu. Boome has lost his battle to be fit for the series after injuring his heel in training.

"Rassie complained at half-time about a rib injury. I asked him to carry on because he is such a great player. But five minutes after half-time he got a message to me saying the pain was just too much and he could not continue," Mallett said.

The Springboks have now lost five players to injury on the tour. Centre Japie Mulder (strained bicep) and lock Krynauw Otto (brain contusion) were forced out following the Mandela Challenge defeat.

New Zealand: Tries Cullen 2; Penalties Mehrtens 3, Brown; Drop goal Mehrtens. South Africa: Penalties Van Straaten 3. Drop goal Montgomery.

NEW ZEALAND: C Cullen; T Umaga (both Wellington), M Robinson (Canterbury), P Alatini (Otago), J Lomu (Wellington); A Mehrtens, J Marshall (both Canterbury); C Hoeft, A Oliver, K Meeuws (all Otago), T Blackadder (Canterbury, capt), T Flavell (North Harbour), T Randell (Otago), R Cribb (North Harbour), J Kronfeld (Otago). Replacements: L MacDonald (Canterbury) for Cullen 2-6, N Maxwell (Canterbury) for Flavell 40, C Dowd (Auckland) for Hoeft 50, M Hammett (Canterbury) for Oliver 63, T Brown (Otago) for Mehrtens 68, S Robertson (Canterbury) for Kronfeld 74.

SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery (Western Province); T Delport (Golden Lions), R Fleck, D W Barry, B Paulse; B van Straaten (all Western Province), W Swanepoel (Golden Lions); R Kempson, C Marais, C Visagie (all Western Province), A Venter (Free State), A van den Berg (Natal), C Krige (Western Province), A Vos (Golden Lions, capt), R Erasmus (Golden Lions). Replacements: W Brosnihan (Natal) for Erasmus 47, W Meyer (Golden Lions) for Visagie 66, J Smit (Natal) for Kempson 72, J Labuschagne (Golden Lions) for Van den Berg 72, J van der Westhuizen (Blue Bulls) for Swanepoel 75, G Esterhuizen (Golden Lions) for Fleck 75.

Referee: C White (England).