South Africa held off a furious second-half rally from New Zealand to win their Tri-Nations opener in Bloemfontein.
Springboks hang on to beat battling All Blacks
South Africa held off a furious second-half rally from New Zealand to win their Tri-Nations opener in Bloemfontein. The All Blacks recovered from a 17-3 deficit early in the second half to get within four points, but the Springboks sealed the deal when Jaque Fourie went over eight minutes from time to make it 25-16. The All Blacks took the lead through Stephen Donald's early penalty, but South Africa came roaring back with 17 unanswered points.
Frans Steyn levelled the scores with a penalty, and South Africa should have led in the 11th minute when Ruan Pienaar struck the post with another penalty kick. He would miss one more before finally making it 6-3 in the 16th minute. It had been a tense, tight opening, marked by the odd scuffle, but the Springboks blew it open in the 24th minute when Jean de Villiers tossed the ball out for Pienaar to run in the first try.
However, Pienaar's wayward kicking continued as he missed the conversion. The All Blacks looked for an instant response, but an impressive move ended with a forward pass. An injury to Pienaar saw kicking duties passed to Frans Steyn who made a penalty to put his country 14-3 up. Pienaar would try one more time before the break, but missed again, making it 11 points he had missed scoring in the first half.
Morne Steyn took over the kicking in the second half as Pienaar's evening came to an end, and he nailed his first attempt to make it 17-3 two minutes after the break. However, the All Blacks finally came to life as Conrad Smith launched a superb run, slicing through the defence to go over. Donald converted the try and moments later kicked a penalty as New Zealand closed the gap. South Africa looked rattled, but another penalty from Morne Steyn in the 56th minute helped settle the nerves. But Donald's penalty after 64 minutes cut the gap back to four, 20-16, heading into the final quarter of an hour.
But as nails were frantically being bitten around Vodacom Park, Piri Weepu's wayward pass was recovered by the Springboks and Fourie went over to punish the error. Morne Steyn's missed conversion allowed the All Blacks to stay in it thanks to another penalty from Donald, but Steyn made no mistake the next time, with his kick three minutes from time ending the All Black challenge. * PA Sport