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South Africa v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, July 25
Powerful Boks too good for All Blacks
Huw Baines
July 25, 2009
Date/Time: Jul 25, 2009, 17:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
South Africa 28 - 19 New Zealand
Attendance: 37081  Half-time: 14 - 3
Tries: Fourie, Pienaar
Pens: Pienaar, FPL Steyn 2, M Steyn 3
Tries: Smith
Cons: Donald
Pens: Donald 4

South Africa held off a spirited revival from the All Blacks to register a 28-19 win in their Tri-Nations showdown at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.

The Springboks powered ahead with a stunning first-half performance of power and purpose, fly-half Ruan Pienaar making up for another off-day with the boot by scoring their first try before Conrad Smith, in a superb personal performance, bit back for the All Blacks. Jaque Fourie rounded off the Springboks' effort against the run of play, his try setting down a marker for this Springbok side to justify the hype that accompanied their series win over the British & Irish Lions.

Stephen Donald was a steadying presence for the All Blacks throughout, following up his excellent performance against the Wallabies last weekend, but the All Blacks struggled at the lineout and scrum. The Springboks were composed and ruthless at the breakdown, openside Heinrich Brussow going head to head with Richie McCaw and winning their personal battle.

Donald settled his nerves early on, opening the scoring with a regulation penalty after an obstruction by the Munster-bound Jean de Villiers. After a great deal of speculation in the build-up, All Black hooker Andrew Hore fluffed his lines at their first lineout. His overthrow didn't hit them on the scoreboard as it did against the Wallabies, but the Springboks were soon back on level terms thanks to a bullet straight penalty from the halfway line courtesy of fullback Frans Steyn.

Pienaar's kicking woes continued from the second Test against the Lions, his first two efforts cannoning off the uprights and letting the All Blacks off after a penalty-ridden opening period. Donald was found wanting for distance with his next effort, which was set up by a remarkable steal from McCaw.

The sound of referee Alain Rolland's whistle overpowered the All Blacks as the half wore on, their work at the breakdown inaccurate and rightly drawing the ire of the Irish official.

Pienaar finally found his range to give the home side the lead after 16 minutes as the Springboks cranked up the pressure. The All Blacks were spared following some strong play in midfield by a knock-on from Fourie, but after Sitiveni Sivivatu had wasted a fine counter attack by hacking the ball out on the full there was nowhere to hide for Graham Henry's men.

With a bullying set of drives the Springboks wore down the resistance, the All Blacks tested repeatedly in a fashion completely removed from their physical dominance of Australia. Pierre Spies was held up over the line by McCaw, but their disjointed defence was pierced by Pienaar from the next phase. De Villiers was halted by a stunning tackle from Conrad Smith, but the centre was alert enough to pop the ball to Pienaar who danced over unopposed.

The All Blacks fought for every scrap of possession, but were comprehensively outthought by Brussow, whose unconventional body position left McCaw and Co. without an answer.

The hosts were handed a blow with Pienaar picking up an ankle injury just before the break, Steyn stepping up to increase their lead with his second penalty while the fly-half received treatment. Pienaar's injury forced him off at half-time, by which time he had missed another penalty as the All Blacks' discipline continued to disappoint. The Springboks trooped in at half-time in a dominant position, but Pienaar's profligacy with the boot had left 11 points on the field.

Pienaar's replacement Morne Steyn, schooled in Bloemfontein and cheered on to the field like a prodigal son, landed a penalty straight after the resumption as the All Blacks continued to offer opportunities with sloppy play, this time Smith offside from a Garryowen.

Memories of the All Blacks' comeback against the Wallabies in Auckland seemed distant as the Bulls fly-half ran back in to position for the kick-off, but Smith had different ideas following his assist for McCaw's try last time out. It was the Springboks who found their defensive line wanting on this occasion, Smith setting off on a jinking run at the 22 and coasting over unopposed as JP Pietersen and Steyn managed only half-hearted attempts at stopping his progress.

Donald converted and added another penalty moments later; his aim excellent as boos rang around Free State Stadium. The All Blacks, in the unfamiliar position of being outmuscled, attacked the breakdown with renewed vigour after their mini revival, but thanks to a superb pickup from fly-half Steyn the Boks were able to extend their lead. After the All Blacks flew off their feet to halt his progress he hit an ugly-looking penalty that nevertheless restored a seven-point advantage.

A harsh call against Brussow allowed Donald to claw three points back as the All Blacks positioned themselves for a late surge for the line - testament to their staying power after they were bludgeoned in the first-half.

The hosts lost de Villiers to a painful-looking leg injury, a development that would have been greeted with groans in Limerick, before two mistakes by Piri Weepu ended the All Blacks' spirited fightback. First the Wellington scrum-half was guilty of slow reactions at an attacking ruck, his looping delivery breaking to Spies who hacked the ball clear and set off in pursuit. Smith rescued the All Blacks by swatting the ball back to a retreating Weepu, but his delivery was again poor and McCaw could only paw the ball down in to the arms of an onrushing Fourie. The centre, roared on by the crowd, made no mistake as he raced over in the corner.

Donald kept plugging away and notched another penalty to draw the All Blacks back in to bonus-point territory, but Steyn was on hand to crush any small victories for the visitors with a monster penalty in the dying embers of the game.

South Africa: Francois Steyn (Sharks); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Bryan Habana (Bulls); Ruan Pieenar (Sharks), Fourie du Preez (Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), John Smit (Sharks, capt), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Heinrich Brussouw (Cheetahs), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Bulls)

Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Ricky Januarie (Stormers), Morne Steyn (Bulls), Wynand Olivier (Bulls)

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina (Chiefs); Joe Rokocoko (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Chiefs); Stephen Donald (Chiefs), Brendon Leonard (Chiefs); Tony Woodcock (Blues), Andrew Hore (Hurricanes), Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes), Brad Thorn (Crusaders), Isaac Ross (Crusaders), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Richie McCaw (Crusaders), Rodney So'oialo (Hurricanes)

Replacements: Keven Mealamu (Blues), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Jason Eaton (Hurricanes), Kieran Read (Crusaders), Piri Weepu (Crusaders), Luke McAlister (Blues), Cory Jane (Hurricanes)

Referee:Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Assitant referees: N. Owens T. Hayes Television Match Official: G. Hughes

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