Boks tackle All Blacks into submission
The Springboks tackled like men possessed to beat the All Blacks 22-16 in their Tri-Nations rugby test played at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
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In what was their last test in South Africa this year John Smit’s men produced an awesome defensive effort to set up a great platform in their quest to retain the Tri-Nations trophy.
By winning their two home games – having beaten Australia, also 22-16, in their opening game at Loftus last Saturday – the Boks have put themselves in a strong position to take the trophy by winning at least one of their matches when they travel “down under” in two weeks’ time.
In a strange quirk the Springboks’ 22 points in successive tests had an identical configuration – a try (this time by Jean de Villiers), four penalties and a conversion by Percy Montgomery and a dropped goal by André Pretorius.
The Boks, after making an excellent start to run up a 13-0 lead, again had to dig deep to eke out a victory in a typically attritional test match against their keenest rivals.
The All Blacks, always so menacing with their pace out wide, had the greater share of possession and built numerous promising phases but the Springboks never let up their defensive energy and made countless big hits to snuff out all but one move; when Aaron Mauger managed to put Rico Gear away on the outside.
The hard physical attitude and rush defence of the Springboks had the All Blacks puzzled, then rattled and finally stripped them of their invincible aura.
It was the type of gritty performance on which South Africa’s proud history was built and Jake White, Smit and his men have every reason to bask, just for a little while before they go on tour, in what is the amazing achievement of beating the Wallabies (twice) and the All Blacks on three successive Saturdays.
The Boks made an exceptional start by rattling up 13 points in just nine minutes as the All Blacks, who had not played for four weeks after their heroics against the Lions, struggled to come to terms with the intensity had hard physical edge of the South Africans.
Percy Montgomery kicked a penalty and Andre Pretorius a dropped goal, after the first of Victor Matfield’s poaches that upset the All Blacks’ lineout, and then Jean de Villiers’ uncanny knack to sniff out a try produced pay dirt.
Rico Gear made a promising incursion but De Villiers read his back-flip and sped 70 metres to the far posts to give the Boks exactly the kind of start they had been hoping for.
Quality side that they are though the All Blacks did not let up trying to outflank the Boks with precarious looking passes across their flat defensive line and the pressure told as Daniel Carter got the visitors on the board with a penalty before they finally found the hole they were looking for in the tramlines when Mauger looped the ball to the speedy winger on the right.
Mauger added the conversion (13-10) and when he kicked his second penalty (13-13) it meant the Boks’ lead had been wiped out in the space of 15 minutes.
Montgomery pushed the Boks’ in front again just before the break and the critical plays of a strangely unstructured game came shortly after the re-start when first Bakkies Botha caused a penalty to his side to be turned around, allowing the All Blacks a bridgehead in the Boks’ half.
From the ensuing possession Gear managed to slip through out wide but when he tracked back inside he was unable to control his pass to the players coming up in support and a golden chance was gone.
At that point there was a sense of trepidation that the All Blacks were getting on top but the character of the Boks shone through as they wrested back the initiative; applying their set-piece dominance to create the pressure that allowed Montgomery to add two more penalties and take them into a 22-13 lead that they were able to preserve, but for one more Carter penalty, until the final whistle.
There were outstanding performances from the like of Ricky Januarie, Pretorius, Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith and John Smit while Victor Matfield (whose early smashing tackle removed one of the All Blacks’ kingpins in scrumhalf Byron Kelleher) and Bakkies Botha again showed why they are universally regarded as the best lock pairing in world rugby.
Against this All Black superheroes such as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw made errors and failed to have their usual impact – perhaps the best tribute of just how well the revitalised Springboks played.
A try by Jean de Villiers was converted by Percy Montgomery who also kicked four penalties. André Pretorius scored a drop goal.
A try by Rico Gear was converted by Daniel Carter who also kicked three penalties.