Tri Nations 2000
All Blacks march on past Springboks
July 22, 2000
Report Match details
Date/Time: Jul 22, 2000, 14:35 local, 02:35 GMT
Venue: Lancaster Park, Christchurch
New Zealand 25 - 12 South Africa
Attendance: 49000  Half-time: 19 - 12
Tries: Cullen 2
Pens: Brown, Mehrtens 3
Drops: Mehrtens
Pens: van Straaten 3
Drops: Montgomery
Springbok Robbie Fleck looks to beat New Zealand hooker Anton Oliver, New Zealand v South Africa, Tri Nations, Lancaster Park, July 22 2000.
Robbie Fleck looks to beat All Black hooker Anton Oliver
© Getty Images
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The demeanour and pronouncements of the South African players and management team in Christchurch this week suggested that they had already settled for defeat, but were hoping to restrict the damage so that they could emerge with some credit.

In blunting All Black offensive power, they were restricted to two Christian Cullen tries, and finishing with a 25-12 defeat, the Springboks may feel that they achieved their objective and Nick Mallett may well claim further success in his determination to transform his side's style of play.

After the extraordinary events in Sydney last weekend, we were back down to earth today. Neither side ever achieved sufficient fluency to break the game open, unforced handling errors and inaccuracies undermining efforts to create and maintain momentum, and both defences simply stifled what invention threatened.

Against Australia, New Zealand struggled with their line out and fringe defence, emerging victorious because of their dynamic three quarter play. In Christchurch, the line out work of earlier in the week had clearly paid off. Blackadder was a solid presence throughout, Flavell in the first half and Maxwell in the second dynamic in threatening the Springboks and, particularly in the second half, winning a good deal of possession on the South African throw in. The Springboks' failure to cross the All Blacks' try line confirms that the decision to start with Kronfeld was the right one as he led the home side's defensive line.

Conversely, the All Black back line had a quiet afternoon. Early on, Mehrtens realised that the Springboks' flat defensive alignment could be breached with a kick over the top and he preferred this tactic to keeping the ball in hand. Robinson and Alatini were therefore seen largely in defence and Lomu and Umaga rarely with space to attack.

Cullen's tries, the first after seven minutes, the second after fifteen, were due firstly to a kick through which Montgomery didn't fancy gathering as Lomu loomed and, secondly, a superb cut out pass by Mehrtens which left the full back with a clear run to the line. We saw very few clear-cut opportunities for tries subsequently as the Springboks scrambled and stifled for all they were worth.

Nick Mallett's determination to see his side play with ball in hand was put into practice, especially in the first half, but it was possible to see the rough edges in the policy. His players tended to attack across field, they lacked composure and accuracy so that fluency rarely materialised, the dropped ball or pass behind the receiving player never too far away. Swanepoel had a good game at scrum half, posing a threat throughout, but Van Straaten is not a dynamic enough player to ignite a back line which did not gel successfully.

The Springbok scrum went well enough, and Van Den Berg, Venter, Erasmus (until his replacement early in the second half) and Vos were always threatening with ball in hand. As the game wore on their lineout came under threat and confidence in it visibly drained away. Without the necessary platform they were unable to seriously threaten in the second half.

The game almost started in sensational fashion, Paulse looking to be impeded as he chased a kick through after Krige and Cullen had collided sickeningly. Both required off-field attention, but the latter returned to score decisive blows with his two tries. Van Straaten had given his side a 6th minute lead and kicked two further penalties at the end of the half to just about keep his side in touch. Montgomery dropped a goal in the 23rd minute but Mehrtens maintained the All Blacks' advantage going into half time with two penalties and a dropped goal of his own. 19-12 at half time.

Only two penalties were scored in the second period, one each to Mehrtens and Brown. A comfortable enough winning margin in the end, the All Blacks never entirely convincing, the Springboks perhaps never believing in themselves sufficiently to offer real menace. Both sides still have much to work on as they both face fixtures against Australia over the next two weekends. Wayne Smith has seen the winning momentum of his side maintained and the pressure on Nick Mallett ought not to have increased too greatly. But I don't suppose too many people will be discussing whether this was, or was not, the greatest game of rugby ever played.

Scorers :

New Zealand 25 : Tries : Cullen (2). Penalties : Mehrtens (3), Brown . Dropped goal : Mehrtens.

South Africa 12 : Penalties : Van Straaten (3). Dropped goal : Montgomery.

New Zealand: Christian Cullen (Leon McDonald 1, Cullen 5); Tana Umaga, Mark Robinson, Pita Alatini, Jonah Lomu; Andrew Mehrtens (Tony Brown 67), Justin Marshall; Ron Cribb, Josh Kronfeld (Scott Robertson 73), Taine Randell; Todd Blackadder (capt.), Troy Flavell (Norm Maxwell 46); Kees Meeuws, Anton Oliver (Mark Hammer 61), Carl Hoeft (Craig Dowd 48) Replacement not used: Byron Kelleher

South Africa: Percy Montgomery; Thinus Delport, Robbie Fleck (Grant,Esterhuizen 74), De Wet Barry, Breyton Paulse; Braam van Straaten, Werner Swanepoel (Joost van der Wethuizen 74); Andre Vos (capt.), Johan Erasmus, Cornus Krige (Warren Brosnihan 1, Krige 6); Andre Venter, Albert van den Berg (Jannes Labushchagne 70); Cobus Visage (Willie Meyer 65), Charl Marais, Robbie Kempson (John Smit 34, 74) Replacement not used: Chester Williams

Referee: Chris White (Eng)


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