WELLINGTON // The New Zealand flyhalf Daniel Carter scored 14 points and set up a try for Jerome Kaino to lead the All Blacks to a 19-8 victory over the world champions South Africa in their Tri-Nations opener. Carter slotted four penalties and converted Kaino's second-half try at Westpac Stadium to seal New Zealand's 30th successive home Test victory. Bryan Habana scored a late first-half try while Butch James added a penalty for South Africa, who had their own 14-Test unbeaten run ended with the defeat.
"The guys played with huge character with big backbones," said the All Blacks coach Graham Henry. "I think that was the winning of the game. "They followed the skip [captain Rodney So'oialo] here and went through and came through strong in the second-half and won the game." The match, played in semi-darkness for 20 minutes when one of the floodlight towers went out in the first-half, was the first Test to be played under the International Rugby Board's (IRB) Experimental Law Variations (ELVs).
The All Blacks attempted to use the laws to their advantage and play the game at a high tempo, though the South African forwards produced a brutal defensive effort and threw themselves into the breakdown with little regard for their personal safety. Carter and James exchanged penalties in the first seven minutes before the match settled into a war of attrition with the former adding two more penalties to give his side a 9-3 lead with half-an-hour gone.
The South Africans capitalised on several of New Zealand's errors with Habana's try the result of a missed tackle on Jean de Villiers, who ran into space and threw a long pass to the 2007 IRB Player of the Year to slide over the line under a covering tackle. James missed the sideline conversion to leave the score 9-8 at the break. The All Blacks extended the lead early in the second-half with a sustained build-up that swept across the field before Carter ghosted through a gap in the defence and passed to Kaino, who forced his way over in the corner.
The number eight had a second try disallowed after pouncing on a Carter stab-kick, with referee Stuart Dickinson ruling that Kaino was offside, though television replays suggested he was behind the flyhalf when the kick was made. Carter added his fourth penalty in the 72nd minute and the All Blacks spent the last eight minutes inside South African territory but were unable to extend their advantage.
"It's never easy or good to lose a game," said the Springboks coach Peter de Villiers. "Some of them you will win, some you will lose and if you make it too personal it will rub off on your players. "They believe in themselves and I think they have too much talent to lie down." The teams meet again in the second match of the tournament, which also includes Australia, in Dunedin next Saturday. *Reuters