A workmanlike New Zealand performance, spearheaded by a superior forward effort, was enough to beat the world champions in the opening Tri-Nations match in Wellington.
The All Blacks survived the absence of their captain, Richie McCaw, and an unconvincing first half to take charge up front and put away a strangely subdued South African side, inflicting a first defeat on the Springboks' new coach, Peter de Villiers.
On a cold night of high wind and pouring rain the New Zealanders adapted much better to the conditions, showing greater patience and keeping the ball with much more care than their rivals. They kicked better too, especially after half-time. The Springboks made errors and were beaten at the breakdowns, conceding territory and possession.
South Africa have not won on New Zealand soil for 10 years. They get another chance in Dunedin on Saturday but they will be hard pushed to avoid a second defeat. They started with nine of their World Cup-winning side but lacked the authority of world champions. Butch James had a poor game at fly-half, wasting too much ball with inaccurate kicks. The forwards never discovered the conviction and organisation which typified their play last year.
New Zealand led 9-3 after half an hour, through three Dan Carter penalties to one by James. By then the All Black lock Brad Thorn had been lucky to escape immediate censure for a dangerous tackle on the Springbok captain, John Smit, which the Australian referee, Stuart Dickinson, saw but did not punish. Smit had to retire soon after, having damaged his groin in the tackle, and Thorn, a former Brisbane Broncos rugby league player, was cited after the match. He will face a disciplinary hearing today.
The wing Bryan Habana gave the Boks hope by scooting over for a try in the left-hand corner just before half-time, after the All Blacks had got their defensive numbers wrong in broken play. James missed the conversion, making it 9-8 to the home side at the break. It was as close as the Springboks would get.
Five minutes after the break the All Blacks' No 8, Jerome Kaino, finished off an excellent movement full of power, aggression and continuity to score in the left corner, following a clever loop and dummy by Carter. The fly-half converted from wide out to make it 16-8, a big lead in such tough conditions.
With the South African scrum under heavy pressure the All Blacks took charge, although they were still second best in the line-outs in the second period. Kaino scored a second try which was, erroneously, disallowed for an offside that was proven incorrect by replays. However, the trend of the match continued and Carter's fourth penalty, after Schalk Burger had tackled Leon Macdonald off the ball, made for a decisive lead.
The All Blacks' coach, Graham Henry, said: "Our guys played with huge character; that was the winning of the game. We showed great intensity and I am very proud of them. The occasion fired them up for it was a big Test match."
De Villiers said: "We didn't adapt enough to the conditions and we made too many errors." Smit added: "New Zealand defended well, they kicked much better than us and made less mistakes. We needed to be more patient and composed."
New Zealand: M Muliaina; S Sivivatu (L Macdonald, 69), C Smith, M Nonu, R Wulf; D Carter, A Ellis (J Cowan, 74); T Woodcock, A Hore (K Mealamu, 68), G Somerville (N Tialata, 74), B Thorn, A Williams, A Thomson, R So'oialo (capt), J Kaino.
South Africa: C Jantjes (P Montgomery, 63); O Ndungane, A Jacobs, J de Villiers, B Habana; B James (F Steyn, 60), R Januarie (B Conradie, 71); G Steen-kamp, J Smit (capt; B du Plessis, 35), CJ van der Linde (B Mujati, 47), B Botha (A Bekker, 71), V Matfield, S Burger, J Smith, J van Niekerk (L Watson, 60).
Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).Reuse content