Do-or-die Boks down All Blacks
Morne Steyn (Gallo Images)
Port Elizabeth - The Springboks put their bodies on the line to record an 18-5 victory over the All Blacks in a bruising encounter in Port Elizabeth.
Morne Steyn was back to his best as fiery South Africa rediscovered the art of winning by defeating a second string New Zealand.
The ace goal kicker went into the match battling to remain first-choice fly-half under pressure from World Cup winner Butch James and put down a marker by kicking five penalties and a drop goal.
Bloodied and battered flank Heinrich Brussow was another star as the Springboks shrugged off three consecutive losses in the southern hemisphere championship to end on an upbeat note.
New Zealand, showing 12 changes from the team that defeated Australia in Auckland two weeks ago, deserved more than a Richard Kahui try for their first-half efforts.
The All Blacks now head for Brisbane and a title decider against the Wallabies with the Springboks finishing bottom and looking towards the daunting challenge of becoming the first side to successfully defend their world title next month in New Zealand.
South Africa defended superbly in the first half at a packed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and led 15-5 at half-time thanks to four penalties and a drop goal from Steyn.
The All Blacks attacked from the kick-off and were deprived of a 50-second try by a superb tackle from Bryan Habana which prevented Jimmy Cowan going over.
A Jaque Fourie intercept salvaged another dangerous situation for the under-pressure Springboks before Steyn slotted his first penalty with eight minutes gone.
Superb South Africa scrummaging led to New Zealand being penalised again and Steyn once more made light of the challenging distance to guide the ball between the posts.
Brussow was forced to leave the field for nine minutes to have medical attention to his bloodied face and Ashley Johnson took his place.
Another Steyn penalty on 18 minutes gave the home team a flattering nine-point advantage with New Zealand having more possession and territory, but unable to make it count.
South Africa full-back Patrick Lambie went off midway through the half before Steyn lifted green and gold spirits with his fourth successful penalty followed a few minutes later by a trademark drop goal.
The All Blacks finally got off the mark five minutes before half-time by winning a line-out and slick handling and an inside break set up Kahui, but Colin Slade failed to convert.
Steyn went close with a second drop-goal attempt just before the break, but South Africa could be well satisfied after their best 40 minutes of the Tri-Nations season.
Cowan crossed the try-line seven minutes into the second half but the score was ruled out after the television match official correctly noted that the scoring pass from Israel Dagg was forward.
The only points of the half came on the hour mark as Steyn made it five out of five when presented with a penalty chance.
South Africa - Penalties: Morne Steyn (5). Drop goal: Steyn
New Zealand - Try: Richard Kahui.Teams:
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16 John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch James
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Cory Jane