Div salutes Boks' character
Peter de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Port Elizabeth - Peter de Villiers has paid tribute to the character of his Springboks as he declared his team 'right on track' for the World Cup.
The Springboks traded heavily on the unerring boot of their flyhalf Morne Steyn to avert a Tri-Nations whitewash after they ran out 18-5 winners over the All Blacks at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
Steyn rifled six kicks through the posts to account for all the side's match-winning points after he gave the Boks a 15-5 lead at halftime.
The morale-boosting win for the Springboks will do the side's confidence a world of good ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand where the global showpiece kicks-off in three weeks' time.
The All Blacks, who fielded a largely untried combination enjoyed the distinction of scoring the only try of the match.
"The victory was a just reward for the hard work that we were able to put in a very short space of time," said Springbok coach Peter De Villiers.
"Last we had a chance after many players were out injured, and I thought that we player better at stages last week.
"But I also want to say that I'm grateful to the people of Port Elizabeth for their support.
"This win will do us good, and the people will start believing in us again.
"I must also pay tribute to the character of this Bok team, especially when you have guys like Victor (Matfield) and Heinrich (Brussouw) who picked up injuries in the second half and then carried on playing.
"I'm pleased to say we're right on track. Our line-outs were good and it provided a good platform for the backs."
The Springbok defence appeared vulnerable out wide on the channel near the main grandstand touchline and early runs by New Zealand Israel Dagg (fullback), Richard Kahui (centre) and Isaia Toeava (wing) often took play up to tryline. However, desperate cover defence by wing Bryan Habana and centre Jaque Fourie avoided early disaster for the hosts.
The All Blacks opening effort was easily worth two tries in the opening six minutes but it spoke volumes for the Springboks' improved defence systems.
To add insult to injury for the visitors, their infringements close to the halfway and just inside their own territory were severely punished by Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn, who imposed himself on the game with his prolific place-kicking ability.
After a mere 17 minutes into the game, and somewhat against the run of play, Steyn gave the Boks a 9-0 lead after he rifled three penalties through the post.
There was a strong response from the All Blacks who drove down the middle with a string of sorties from their pack but the scrambled well to thwart their best efforts around their 22-metre area.
The All Blacks should have opened their score account at around this time but flyhalf Colin Slade hashed a goalable penalty from the Boks' 10-metre line.
Soon afterwards, Bok fullback Patrick Lambie left the field, holding him arm with what looked like a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Francois Hougaard, who moved on the rightwing with JP Peterson moving to fullback.
Fourie and Habana saw off the persistent All Blacks penetration by launching a counter-attack out wide down the left channel and the ploy helped to transfer play to the All Blacks' 22-metre area.
The All Blacks finally managed to open their account when they carried the ball strongly with fine back and forward inter-play and Kahui exploited shoddy defence near the corner flag to corkscrew his way over for the first try of the match.
On the stroke of halftime, Steyn was fractionally wide with another drop goal attempt.
The regular advances on the scoreboard, courtesy of Steyn's prolific boot, had clearly give the Boks' play a lift and his early contributions meant that visitors were left chasing the game for most of the half.
A spirited start by the All Blacks might have helped to reduce the deficit but a try by scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan was disallowed after Dagg showed a fine turn of speed to catch the Bok defence napping out wide.
Hougaard's cover defence stopped Dagg five metres from the tryline.
The Boks' made their let-off good with a relieving kicks to transfer play into the opposition half, where their pack were able to keep their side on the front foot, especially after one impressive maul on the All Blacks' 10-metre line.
The Boks' forwards pressure made its presence felt for once at a 59th minute scrum and Steyn exploited the advantage by goaling the resultant penalty (18-5).
With play restricted for a long passage of time around the halfway area, Toeava set off a strong crossfield run and the Boks defended well to thwart his supporting runners just short of the tryline.
Towards the end the Springboks finished strongly as play fluctuated from one end of the field to the other.
Scorers: South Africa:Penalties: Morne Steyn (5). Drop goal: Steyn.
New Zealand: Try: Richard Kahui.