The All Blacks opened their Tri-Nations title defense with a 40-7 hammering of the injury-ravaged Springboks yesterday, falling just four points short of a record test victory over the South Africans.
After a stop-start performance in their season-opening 60-14 win over Fiji last week, the World Cup favorites moved up another notch and were rewarded with six tries, including two each for wingers Cory Jane and Zac Guildford.
“It was a big improvement on last week,” coach Graham Henry said. “It’s important for us to keep improving ... I’m pleased with the performance, still things to work on ... but overall seven out of 10.”
Flyhalf Dan Carter added 10 points from two penalties and two conversions to edge back ahead of England’s Jonny Wilkinson in the battle for the Test points world record on 1,204.
South Africa, who scored their one try through skipper John Smit, put in an improved performance after being embarrassed 39-20 by Australia last week, but were simply no match for the power and pace of the home side.
With more than 20 front line players recuperating back in South Africa, the world champions just managed to avoid the ignominy of a worse defeat than the 52-16 drubbing they suffered in 2003.
“The All Blacks looked very good and deserve their tag as favorites for the World Cup,” coach Peter de Villiers said. “At time our execution looked very, very good when we had the ball, but you can’t give the All Blacks turnover ball and they punished us.”
After the All Blacks had trotted out in their new World Cup strip with smart white collars, Carter wasted no time regaining the world record for most Test points with a penalty in the third minute.
However, it was not until 10 minutes later that the home side managed to get across the Springboks try line with prop Wyatt Crockett touching down in the corner for his first Test try.
The 30,000 crowd did not have to wait long for the second, with the All Blacks taking the game straight to the South Africans from the restart.
Carter’s neat grubber kick was hauled in by Ma’a Nonu and, when the center was finally hauled down, the All Blacks recycled and Carter broke again before feeding winger Guildford to score.
The Springboks struck back just before the half hour mark when they kicked a penalty for the corner, won the lineout and Smit barreled through under the posts to celebrate his 104th Test with a try.
“It was about the only enjoyable moment of the game,” Smit said. “It’s always terrible to lose a Test match, even more so against the All Blacks and 40 points was not what we had in mind ... we’ll be gutted with the effort of the last two weeks.”
The All Blacks stormed further ahead five minutes later when Jane scored the pick of his tries by sprinting 50m and rounding his marker to touch down in the corner, sending the home side into the break 18-7 up.
Jane, under pressure for his place in the side because of New Zealand’s surfeit of talent in the back three positions, scored his second four minutes after halftime, scooping up a bouncing ball to touch down after the Springbok defense had gambled on a blitz.
Carter finally kicked his first conversion of the night, adding a penalty five minutes later to extend the lead to 28-7 and the All Blacks started bringing on their replacements, including Sonny Bill Williams for his first home Test.