Tuesday, September 15, 2009

South Africa claims Tri Nations title

Sportal.co.nz - 12/09/2009

South Africa confirmed its No.1 ranking in world rugby when taking the Investec Tri Nations title for the first time since 2004 when beating New Zealand 32-29 in Hamilton.

The home team talked about needing to secure the win before achieving the bonus point that would deny the Springboks the title but they made far too many errors to ever be a serious contender, even when a clever late try to captain Richie McCaw got New Zealand within three points.

It was the first time the Springboks have completed a three-Test clean sweep over the All Blacks since the format of the Tri Nations changed.

The errors which have plagued the 2009 campaign came into effect again and it wasn't until the final 10 minutes that the All Blacks managed to play with their usual continuity and class.

South African fullback Frans Steyn brought back memories of Waikato's favourite rugby son, the big-kicking Don Clarke when landing two gigantic penalty goals, the first from 60m and the second from 57m to respond to All Blacks first five-eighths Daniel Carter's penalty goal in the first 60 seconds.

But it was the mistakes the All Blacks made at the restart from a dropped goal by South Africa's first five-eighths Morne Steyn that proved more costly. That shot was a Tri Nations record for most points in a season as he scored 85 points, one more than Carlos Spencer in the 1997 season.

The errors which have plagued the 2009 campaign came into effect again and it wasn't until the final 10 minutes that the All Blacks managed to play with their usual continuity and class.

Carter's kick to re-start floated out on the full, then moments later, in All Blacks territory, South Africa stole the ball at a New Zealand lineout feed.

The ball was launched by halfback Fourie du Preez and dropped by wing Joe Rokocoko while fullback Mils Muliaina wasn't able to tidy and from the resulting ruck it was du Preez who got over the line to score.

Carter added two more penalty goals in the ninth and 22nd minutes while Steyn took South Africa out to a 10-point margin with another 53m effort.

The lineouts were a disaster area with South Africa reaping great reward for contesting New Zealand's throws, and the All Blacks also messing their calls to concede ball.

Francois Steyn proved fallible when failing to secure a Carter kick ahead in the 30th minute but again any benefit was lost when Stephen Donald, standing at first five-eighths lost the ball when tackled. Then in the resulting play downfield No.8 Kieran Read was penalised for shoulder-charging wing Bryan Habana.

Morne Steyn did the damage with another penalty goal. And Carter replied in the 35th minute.

If there was any hope that things might improve in the second half that was soon forgotten. Twice centre Ma'a Nonu pierced the defences but lost the ball on each occasion.

Then when lock Isaac Ross finally managed to secure a clean lineout take for New Zealand, Carter's pass outside was intercepted by Southland second five-eighths Jean de Villiers and he raced unchallenged to score.

It was significant that in the tap penalty move soon after Isaia Toeava replaced the hapless Stephen Donald the All Blacks produced their best move of the night.
Halfback Jimmy Cowan took the quick tap and Toeava created a gap with a shimmy and broke past the defence to feed Sivivatu who went over in the tackle for the try.

But it was symptomatic of the All Blacks problems that key players like captain Richie McCaw dropped basic passes and Carter threw a forward pass when having broken through. Even the All Blacks scrum was undone, especially when it opted for the scrum when a penalty goal option should have been taken.

When a similar occurrence followed the All Blacks took the points to reduce the deficit to seven only to see it blow out when Muliaina was penalised for holding the ball in a tackle with Morne Steyn landing the penalty goal.

New Zealand 29 (Sitiveni Sivivatu, Richie McCaw tries; Dan Carter 2 con, 4 pen)
South Africa 32 (Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers tries; Morne Steyn 2 con, 2 pen, dropped goal; Frans Steyn 3 pen).
HT: 12-22

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