New Zealand 31 South Africa 17
Superior inventiveness, precision and individual class saw the All Blacks complete their second win, 31-17, over South Africa to make a flying start to the 2010 Tri Nations on a wintry night at Westpac Stadium at Wellington.
South Africa must now limp on to Australia pointless and seemingly bereft of ideas after another mauling by another motivated All Blacks effort.
Undeterred by miserable, wet conditions, the All Blacks were prepared to move the ball, even in their own 22m area, when playing into the wind. Nothing South Africa could do could contain the driving off plays spearheaded by number eight Kieran Read, flanker Jerome Kaino and hooker Keven Mealamu.
When they had done their work, Dan Carter was able to probe with his boot or let the ball out to the outside backs who were a constant threat.
Acting as the link, and an ideal choice under the circumstances, was halfback Piri Weepu. He thrived in the conditions, feeding the ball consistently while making breaks efficiently to ensure the advantage line was continually broken.
With Richie McCaw again leading the way in the loose, the All Blacks continually caught the South Africans on, or behind, the advantage line with some outstanding defence.
Ultimately a tally of eight tries to two across the two matches highlighted the superiority of the All Blacks in the contests.
South Africa lacked direction from Morne Steyn and it was left to hard-running by the midfield backs, especially Jaque Fourie, to try and get enough impetus for his side.
South Africa again paid the price for indiscipline when lock Danie Roussouw was sin-binned when flicking at the eye of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw while he was seated on the ground.
A melee broke out but referee Alain Rolland had no qualms about pulling out the yellow card. Carter missed the kick for goal which resulted but the All Blacks struck at the drop out, when Read took good ball who flicked the ball to wing Cory Jane.
He linked inside to McCaw and from the ruck the ball was moved left where second five-eighths Ma’a Nonu charged ahead after doubling around and scored in the seventh minute.
South Africa attempted to move the ball through the midfield but centre Fourie was tackled in supporting players kicked the ball into half-back Weepu’s hands. He found space down the centre of the field and then through a long pass to fullback Mils Muliaina who was flying from 40m out and he headed the cover defence to put New Zealand 10-0 up after 11 minutes.
A lucky penalty, resulting from a ruling against wing Rene Ranger for not using his arms in a tackle on Zane Kirchner, the South African full-back, when television replays suggested otherwise, allowed the Springboks their best scoring opportunity.
From a lineout, half-back Januarie sniped through a gap and then fed de Villiers into a gap and he raced into the goalmouth. From the ruck Roussouw charged over close to the posts to score. Steyn landed the conversion.
Steyn got the Springboks to 13-10 behind just after the halftime break but again the re-start favoured New Zealand and when a downfield kick was run back by Muliaina, Carter was able to kick high and then rucked ball was moved for Ranger to dive over in the corner for his first Test try.
South Africa was looking to run the ball more, with close contact play involving flanker Francois Louw linking with his backs were mid-field players Wynand Olivier and Fourie made several strong bursts.
But with Carter battling with his goal-kicking a 40-metre chance was handed to Weepu and he landed it to take New Zealand out to 21-10.
The replacement of Ranger by Israel Dagg resulted in a superb individual try, as he left experienced loose forwards like Pierre Spies and flanker Schalk Burger in his wake. He added Kirchner to the list for good measure en route to a remarkable try.
Burger provided a second try for South Africa but with replacements being fed into both camps the intensity had dropped away by the end.