Springboks claim Tri-Nations crown
September 12, 2009
Springboks fullback Frans Steyn landed three monster penalties at Waikato Stadium
© Getty Images
South Africa clinched the 2009 Tri-Nations crown with a hard-fought 32-29 victory over New Zealand at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Tries from scrum-half Fourie du Preez and centre Jean de Villiers and the combined kicking exploits of fly-half Morne Steyn and fullback Frans Steyn proved enough to carry the visitors to only their third southern hemisphere crown and first since 2004.
Winger Sitiveni Sivivatu and captain Richie McCaw notched tries for the All Blacks, to add to 19 points from the boot of fly-half Dan Carter, as the hosts staged a second-half comeback but they were unable to overhaul the dominant Springboks in what was an epic encounter.
Carter opened the scoring in the first minute of the game when Springboks No.8 Pierre Spies was penalised for obstruction at the kick-off. But the Springboks bounced back immediately with an impressive salvo that took them deep into the All Blacks' half but they failed to capitalise on their position.
However, it was soon clear that they would not need territorial advantage to take control of the game. Frans Steyn was the first to punish the All Blacks' indiscipline with a superb long-range penalty from fully 60 metres after Sivivatu had drifted off-side at a ruck. And he gave the Springboks the lead two minutes later with an equally impressive effort from inside his own half.
Carter brought his side level on the quarter hour after Springboks skipper John Smit was penalised at scrum-time but they were soon chasing the game again. The Springboks surged deep into All Blacks territory with Morne Steyn taking the opportunity to slot a neat drop goal that saw him set a new mark for the most Tri-Nations points in a single season.
The All Blacks' lineout woes returned to haunt them and their shortcoming at the set-piece led to the opening try of the game. Victor Matfield disrupted the All Blacks' throw before Du Preez launched a superb kick and chase that Joe Rokocoko spilled under pressure. Bakkies Botha pounced on the loose ball and went close before the ball was recycled by Du Preez who forced his way over. Morne Steyn added the conversion to take the Springboks out to a ten point lead.
Carter closed the gap once more with his third penalty midway through the half that carried him through the 900 Test points barrier. But New Zealand failed to learn their lessons and yet more indiscipline in midfield allowed Frans Steyn to slot his third penalty from beyond half-way.
The All Blacks' frustration was evident moments later when No.8 Kieran Read body-checked Springboks winger Bryan Habana after the whistle and as a result the original penalty was reversed. Morne Steyn hammered home his side's advantage by slotting the kick.
Chasing the game, the All Blacks had to rely on mistakes from the Springboks to remain in the clash with Carter notching his fourth penalty after the visitors had been caught in front of a clearance kick by Morne Steyn. The sides headed to the tunnel with the Springboks leading by ten points and with one hand on the Tri-Nations silverware.
The Springboks started strongly after the break and when Sivivatu coughed up the ball under pressure it was only an accidental offside on the part of the visitors that brought an end to a promising move.
Frans Steyn pulled an outrageous drop goal effort wide of the posts as he looked to stretch his side's advantage but they only had to wait a couple of minutes for another gift from the hosts.
The normally reliable Carter looked to force a pass to replacement Isaia Toeava in midfield and it was duly picked off by intercept king De Villiers who raced away for a crucial try. Morne Steyn's conversion also took him past a half century of points against the All Blacks this year.
The score appeared to rattle the All Blacks with McCaw also guilty of uncharacteristic errors in the aftermath but they recovered their composure and battled back into the game.
A quick tap from Cowan on half-way added some urgency and the ball found its way to Toeava who fended off South Africa's Odwa Ndungane and drew the tackle of Frans Steyn before off-loading to Sivivatu who slid in to score. Carter's conversion brought his side to within ten points.
Spurred on by their success when keeping the ball in hand, the All Blacks raised their game again but were perhaps guilty of a tactical error on the hour mark. Another incisive attack had taken them deep into the Springboks' half and when the penalty came their way McCaw opted for the scrum rather than the simple kick at the posts.
At the resulting set-piece the Springboks forced the All Blacks' into conceding possession and the danger was cleared.
Undeterred the All Blacks pressed again and when Bakkies Botha infringed at the breakdown, Carter made it a seven-point game. But back came the Springboks and when a Du Preez kick found New Zealand's Mils Muliaina isolated the penalty was inevitable.Morne Steyn added to his personal tally.
New Zealand refused to give up however and another crowd-pleasing drive took them within scoring range before a superb cross-kick from Carter found his skipper, McCaw claiming the ball and scoring in the corner in one swift movement. Carter wasted no time in adding a well-struck conversion from the touchline.
One final foray offered hope of a late turnaround but Carter's cross-kick sailed into touch to spark celebrations amongst the Springboks.