x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Error-strewn All Blacks let Springboks 'off the hook'

The New Zealand captain Richie McCaw blames basic mistakes for his side's Tri Nations defeat by South Africa.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has blamed basic mistakes for his side's Tri Nations defeat by South Africa. "It was the simple stuff that let us down," said McCaw. "Perhaps that comes from the pressure they were putting on in defence. But they are the things you can't afford to do in Tests."

And the New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the better side won after the Springboks' 28-18 victory in Bloemfontein. "We thought we might have a bit of a show halfway through the second half but we just made too many errors during the game," Henry said. "We didn't execute well enough to win the game so congratulations to South Africa. "We played some rugby which was pretty good and had an opportunity to win the game at one stage, but we didn't take those opportunities and we made some errors at crucial times that cost us the game."

The All Blacks had battled back from a 17-3 deficit to trail by just four points going into the final 10 minutes. But a wayward pass from substitute scrum-half Piri Weepu, which replacement lock Jason Eaton failed to hold on to, resulted in a try by the Springbok centre Jaque Fourie at the other end, which effectively sealed the New Zealanders' fate. "It felt like we were definitely in the contest," said McCaw.

"Before that try [to Fourie] we were right in the contest and we had them at the right end of the field and were applying some pressure. We made mistakes that let them off the hook. "We played a bit too much rugby at times in our own quarter." South Africa captain John Smit had some sympathy for the opponents who had less than seven days to prepare for the match on the high veldt after a bruising win against Australia.

"It's difficult to turn around from one week to the other and play at altitude," he admitted. "It's a great start by the Springboks and hopefully we can take it further." The dropped pass that led to Fourie's try was just one of several in an error-ridden performance from the visitors. They also inexplicably opted not to contest the line-out which gave Victor Matfield free rein and allowed the Springboks to make good use of the rolling maul.

Had Ruan Pienaar been more accurate with the boot, the deficit at half-time would have been greater than 14-3. Pienaar missed three of his four penalty shots and failed to convert his own 25th-minute try. Conrad Smith was the All Blacks best back and his try eight minutes into the second half sparked the New Zealand fight back. * PA Sport