Tri Nations 2001
Brown kicks All Blacks to victory
July 21, 2001
Tony Brown slots one of his four first-half penalties
© Getty Images
The Springboks put up a spirited performance, but eventually it was the All Blacks who got their Vodacom Tri-Nations campaign off to a winning start at Newlands on Saturday, prevailing 12-3 in a tense encounter.
The New Zealanders led 12-3 at halftime, thanks to the prolific goal-kicking of flyhalf Tony Brown, who slotted four penalty goals. South Africa's fullback, Percy Montgomery, didn't have the same rate of success, succeeding with only one out of three attempts at goal in the first half and failing with another after the break for a dismal return of one out of four.
It was a hard battle, mainly fought in the trenches by the two sets of forwards on a wet and slippery Newlands pitch. The Springbok pack showed a lot of steel and resolve and signalled their intentions in the first scrum of the game, when Cobus Visagie and Co had the visiting pack back-pedalling.
The home team made most of the play all afternoon against a strangely subdued All Black team, who only occasionally showed signs of what they are capable of. The Boks enjoyed the ascendancy in the set scrums, through Mark Andrews, Victor Matfield and Bob Skinstad enjoyed a surfeit of possession in the lineouts and also won the battle for the loose ball. Andrews and Matfield - impressive in his first start - poached three lineout balls on the All Blacks' throw.
The Boks came armed with passion by the truckload full. They cleaned out the rucks like men possessed, they defended like demons - except for those times when a certain giant named Jonah Lomu had the ball - and they attacked the advantage line vigorously.
In the first half they threatened to cross the All Black try-line score on a few occasions, but sadly their finishing let them down. However, it was the All Blacks who finished the half stronger as they put the ball through a couple of phases and showed much more teeth on the attack than the home side.
The All Blacks built their victory on an almost impregnable defence. Whenever the Boks did find a leak in the defensive lines, a defender would pop up from nowhere to make the try-saving tackle. Their handling of the slippery ball was also much better than that of the Springboks, who spilled a lot of good attacking ball.
Maybe the South Africans should have kept the game a bit tighter and employed their more powerful forwards more effectively before spreading it wide. The All Blacks won't be happy with this performance, but they certainly would be thankful for the four points.
They had two great try-scoring opportunities in the first half, but like the Boks they couldn't finish off. In the 20th minute they build up great momentum through wave after wave of attack after an inspiring run by No 8 Ron Cribb and flanker Taine Randell almost slipped through. The Boks were caught offside and Brown succeeded with his second penalty to put his side in the lead at 6-3.
In the 37th minute the All Blacks managed to get the man over on the attack, but a great tackle by Robbie Fleck on Reuben Thorne denied them the first five-pointer of the game. Shortly afterwards Carl Hoeft galloped straight through the middle of a maul and this led to another strong All Black assault on the try-line, but the Boks yet again transgressed for Brown to hand his side a 12-3 lead.
South Africa lost rookie centre Marius Joubert in the 21st minute when he had to leave the field with a knee injury. Joubert won't forget his first touch in a Test easily. He knocked the ball on with not a defender in sight and the Springboks in a good attacking position. His exit saw the introduction of Deon Kayser at outside centre.
The All Blacks replaced injured fullback Jeff Wilson at halftime with Leon MacDonald, who caused havoc in the defence with his cunning runs.
After halftime the Springboks played with a fresh enthusiasm and they go the crowd on the edge of their seats with some fine attacking play. Shortly after the restart the Boks took the ball through more than 10 phases and had the defence at sixes and sevens. The movement ended when Dean Hall was stopped within a whisker of the line by some desperate defence.
A few minutes later the Boks got in another monster scrum and when the All Blacks were penalised, Van der Westhuizen quickly tapped and sent big lock Andrews on a bullocking run. He was, amazingly, stopped in his tracks on the line by Lomu and lost the ball ahead in the process.
A groggy Matfield left the field in the 60th minute to be replaced by Johan Ackermann and two minutes later Ollie le Roux replaced Robbie Kempson at loosehead prop. The All Blacks made changes too, with Chris Jack replacing Norm Maxwell and Marty Holah getting a run in place of Ron Cribb at No 8.
The Springboks' tackling left a lot to be desired at times. They fell off tackles too easily and especially Lomu, Umaga and Howlett punched holes in the defensive lines at times. MacDonald cut them to shreds in the 68th minute when he brushed off the tackles of Smit and Andre Venter before kicking ahead for Howlett, but the touch line won that race.
In the 73rd minute 20-year-old Johann van Niekerk made his debut for South Africa when he replaced Andre Vos, who yet again played his heart out for his country.
The Springboks drew first blood when Montgomery succeeded with his only penalty of the game, but Brown slotted four in succession to give the All Blacks the lead. In the last minute Butch James attempted a penalty kick at goal to secure a bonus point for losing within seven points, but he too failed.
Springboks - Penalty: Percy Montgomery (1).
All Blacks - Penalties: Tony Brown (4