Sour end for Rugby Union: Springboks

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The Independent Online
New Zealand. . . . .18

South Africa . . . .18

SOME pride salvaged, but not enough to erase the memory of a tour which has badly tarnished the image of South African rugby and has soured international relations.

If the Springboks feel aggrieved that a try count of 2-0 in their favour was still not enough to win the match, they were ultimately undone by their own profligacy both in opportunities scorned and penalties conceded. The latter failing has been the curse of this tour. Shane Howarth kicked six goals from six attempts, one of them which was as controversial as it was crucial, just before half-time, when the All Blacks were six points behind and on the verge of losing the control they had displayed early in the game.

A scrum awarded to South Africa in front of their own posts went down and Robert Yeman, the Welsh referee, had no hesitation in penalising the South Africans, but it seemed harsh. In the second half he gave another penalty to New Zealand after Brendan Venter, the Springboks' centre, had reacted angrily to some jersey pulling by Sean Fitzpatrick.

It was Venter who missed the best scoring chance of the match when he spurned a two- man overlap outside him. But he did score a try in the first half, leaving Howarth leaden- footed after James Small - the temporary replacement for Gavin Johnson - had set up the move. The Springboks' first try, scored by Johnson, was equally well taken.

There was little between the two in the line-out, but the All Blacks had a distinct advantage in the scrummages where the experience of Fitzpatrick, Olo Brown and Richard Loe began to tell as the game moved into the final quarter.

But the biggest single influence on the outcome was the arrival on the field of Michael Jones four minutes into the second half. His appearance as the replacement for Blair Larsen produced the loudest cheer of the afternoon and heralded an upsurge in the All Blacks' fortunes. His speed about the field, his skill with the ball in his hand and his enthusiasm - undiminished by the years and by crippling injury - were breathtaking.

The All Blacks' attacks now carried more authority and were mounted with greater urgency and, although the Springboks defended valiantly, they continued to infringe far too often. And it is as sinners, alas, that the Springboks will be chiefly remembered.

The New Zealand manager, Colin Meads, said: 'Any side that scores two tries to none deserves to win.' The South African skipper, Francis Pienaar, added: 'We were always in with a chance. I always thought we were going to win it.'

New Zealand: Penalties Howarth 6. South Africa: Tries Johnson, Venter. Penalties Johnson 2. Conversion Johnson.

South Africa: A Joubert; G Johnson (J Small), J Mulder, B Venter, C Williams; H le Roux, J Roux; A Richter, F van Heerden, F Pienaar (capt), S Atherton, M Andrews, K Andrews, J Allan, B Swart.

New Zealand: S Howarth; J Kirwan, F Bunce, A Ieremia, J Timu; S Bachop, G Bachop; Z Brooke, M Brewer, B Larsen (M Jones), I Jones, R Brooke, O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), R Loe.

(Photograph omitted)