Mistakes and silly errors in handling and decision making by both sides dominated much of New Zealand’s 21-11 victory over South Africa yesterday that left the All Blacks on the verge of winning the inaugural Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks scored two tries, from fullback Israel Dagg and replacement scrumhalf Aaron Smith, while flyhalf Aaron Cruden slotted three penalties and a conversion to keep the world champions unbeaten in the competition.
Springboks winger Bryan Habana scored a brilliant individual try early in the second half to take his South African try-scoring record to 43, while Morne Steyn and his replacement Johan Goosen added a penalty each.
The All Blacks have attempted to play the game at extreme pace under coach Steve Hansen, with backs and forwards linking and keeping the ball alive at every opportunity.
While two back-door flick passes from players being tackled set up Dagg’s first-half try under the roof in Dunedin, more often than not those passes were being spilled.
The All Blacks also did not present the ball accurately at the breakdown for the second successive week, causing problems for first Piri Weepu then Smith, while they were also guilty of hanging on to it too long and incurring the wrath of referee George Clancy.
“When we go back and review [the match], there were a number of what we call avoidable penalties,” Hansen said. “We made some fairly average mistakes at times.”
“[But] we did some fairly decent things as well and the opposition weren’t going to go away and they came to play,” Hansen said. “They brought a great attitude and physicality and when you get a Springboks side like that, they’re hard to play.”
The young Springboks side will also have plenty to work on before they host Australia in two weeks’ time, relying again on a one-dimensional kicking game from flyhalf Steyn to put pressure on the All Blacks inside their own territory.
The tactic, dull as it might be and infuriating to the near capacity crowd expecting a running display of rugby, was effective, with Clancy awarding the visitors numerous penalties.
However, Steyn and inside center Frans Steyn combined to miss five shots at goal in the first half, while Goosen missed a penalty in the second as the Springboks left a possible 20 points from kicks out on the field.
The Springboks also blew a certain try early in the match when Habana was unmarked 15m from the line only for the final pass to go behind him and into touch, leaving the exasperated right winger glowering at his team mates.
“We can probably look at some real opportunities and that is one area we can learn from the All Blacks, they had one or two opportunities and made the most of it,” Habana said. “We have to learn form that. We can’t continue to use the excuse that we’re a young side. Guys like myself, Jean [de Villiers], Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn, have been there for a while.”
“We know what we expect from a clash with New Zealand and we let ourselves down,” he said. “We fight hard but you can’t keep making the same mistakes. As a team, this loss will hurt us pretty bad.”
“We need to take a good look at ourselves. We have to learn from these experiences but we can’t continuing learning, we have to do it [on the field],” he said.