Sportal.co.nz - 13/09/2009
New Zealand might be eight Tests into its programme for the year but it has yet to achieve anything like the improvement, or consistency, of an All Blacks side in its prime.
South Africa was a bigger winner than the 32-29 final scoreline suggested in Hamilton on Saturday, and it was only desperation that got the All Blacks in the picture at the end.
Coach Graham Henry admitted South Africa deserved to win the match and the Investec Tri Nations."It played structured rugby and it played well," he said.
To beat the All Blacks in three successive Tests was 'pretty convincing', Henry said.
It was also successive victories in New Zealand for South Africa after last year's first win at Carisbrook. That made it the first time since 1937, still regarded as the best team to tour New Zealand, that the Springboks had achieved that.
Henry said the side turned over too much ball and while the lineout got a lot better in the second half the game was all about getting the foundations right, and being 'a wee bit more adventurous'.
Forwards coach Steve Hansen said it was disappointing the All Blacks were not able to get a platform going."It's still a work in progress. We have made good progress against a lineout deemed to be the best in the world," he said, adding that one positive from the lineout was New Zealand being able to put the South Africans under some pressure in that area.
Henry said the five-eighths game played between Dan Carter and Stephen Donald had not worked as well as was hoped. The game denied Carter, a key playmaker, the chance to set the tone and it was after Donald was subbed that Carter was able to exhibit more control.
Backs coach Wayne Smith's assessment of the ploy was that in the scrambling type of game, especially in the first half it was not the sort of game the All Blacks wanted to play.Similarly in dealing with the high balls launched by the South Africans, Smith said the side took some great high balls but dropped the critical ones.Henry said that when the All Blacks got quality first phase ball their play got better. He felt among the positives in the series to date, the work under the high ball had improved and he felt lock Isaac Ross had played well in the absence of Ali Williams.
"He's got a big future in the game. He'll never have a bigger test than the three Test matches he has had against South Africa."I thought the goal-kicking tonight was the best I've ever seen – from both sides. They didn't miss a shot. It was a brilliant display of goal-kicking," Henry said.