Center Jaque Fourie scored a late breakaway try as South Africa got their Tri-Nations campaign off to a winning start by defeating arch foes New Zealand 28-19 on Saturday.
Fourie struck eight minutes from fulltime as the Springboks were holding on to a four-point lead and a late Morne Steyn penalty deprived the All Blacks of a bonus point. A series of untypical All Blacks handling errors starting from a scrum led to the crucial try, with Fourie accelerating to dive over in the corner at chilly Vodacom Park in the central city.
“It was vital to win this one,” bruised Springbok tight-head prop and captain John Smit said. “If you come out of a Test against the All Blacks unscathed, you have not worked hard enough. We applied a lot of pressure and this victory was a step in the right direction, although there is a lot more work to be done. We did the hard stuff up front today and got the ball out wide at appropriate times.”
All Blacks skipper and loose forward Richie McCaw also bore the scars of battle after another highly physical episode in one of the great world rugby union rivalries.
“There were too many mistakes inside our 22 and the Springboks capitalized on them. They played very well at the right end of the field and we were just not smart enough,” McCaw said.
After finishing last in the previous three editions, the ’Boks were desperate for a winning start to the six-match campaign against the nine-time winners of the southern hemisphere championship. The green and gold dominated the opening 40 minutes to turn over 14-3 ahead, despite poor goal kicking from flyhalf Ruan Pienaar, who had just one success off five attempts.
The All Blacks drew first blood after four minutes when flyhalf Stephen Donald slotted a penalty, but fullback Francois Steyn leveled soon after with a penalty from inside his own half. Pienaar was then deprived by the woodwork twice within three minutes — hitting the left and then the right post — before Donald also flopped as his second penalty dropped short.
Another penalty effort by Pienaar, son of former ’Bok fullback Gysie, bore fruit to give the reigning world champions a 6-3 advantage midway through the opening half.
Pienaar scored again after 25 minutes, diving over in the corner for a try after taking a scoring pass from center Jean de Villiers as the All Blacks crumbled under relentless pressure. The pivot failed with the conversion, another penalty and a drop goal attempt, but Francois Steyn succeeded with a penalty to leave the ’Boks 11 points ahead at the interval.
Injury-prone Pienaar limped off and was replaced by Morne Styen, leading scorer in the Super 14 provincial championship this year, who scored with his first penalty shot, but the All Blacks were back in business on 48 minutes when a back-line move off a scrum set up center Conrad Smith to evade four tackles and dive over with Donald converting. Donald flighted an acute angle penalty between the posts four minutes later and a 14-point South Africa lead had shrunk to just four at a venue where they were seeking a first win over the All Blacks.
Morne Steyn and Donald kicked penalties as the game became error strewn and South Africa entered the final 10 minutes with a four-point lead, but minus de Villiers, who limped off to be replaced by Wynand Olivier.
After Fourie touched down, Donald cut the deficit to six points with his fourth penalty, only for Steyn to land a 54m penalty two minutes from time.