JON CARDINELLI reports on the All Blacks’ 31-17 hammering of the Springboks in Wellington.
Unbelievably, the Boks found themselves trailing by six points at half-time. Considering their inconsistent defensive efforts, their inability to adapt to Alain Rolland’s relaxed and sometimes negligent style of officiating, and their failure to impose themselves on attack, they should have been buried by the All Blacks before the break.
After the Bakkies Botha headbutt in Auckland, you’d think the Boks would have embraced a more disciplined attitude. They needed to up their physicality after the hammering at Eden Park. They didn’t need to concede another yellow card.
Botha’s replacement, Danie Rossouw, probably didn’t get that memo. After just three minutes, a light kick on New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw earned him a stint in the sin-bin.
The All Blacks scored 10 points in Rossouw’s absence, but the one-man disadvantage was no excuse for some shocking defending. The hosts displayed excellent continuity through their surge and offload strategy. They had threatened the Boks’ wide channels earlier in the game, and exploited this space for an opening score by Ma’a Nonu.
Poor ball security by the Boks handed the All Blacks their second opportunity, and though Rolland missed a Kiwi hand in the ruck, you couldn’t fault the hosts for finishing. A bobbling ball was hacked away by Mr Inconsistency himself, Ricky Januarie, and his opposite number, Piri Weepu, spun a beautiful pass to Mils Muliaina, who outstripped the Bok cover to score.
The South African attack was unimaginative, and were often smashed back by the hungrier All Blacks heavies. A South African surge would be culled, the ball would fly back to Morne Steyn, and the inevitable garryowen would follow. Though the All Blacks battled at times to field the slippery ball, the mistake wasn’t punished by the Boks.
When the All Blacks fielded the deep kicks, the counter-attack was always on. If they used the boot, Dan Carter would kick back at the Bok-back three knowing the defensively-minded Jean de Villiers and Zane Kirchner would never threaten the All Blacks’ defence from deep. When Gio Aplon arrived in the second period, he provided the spark and penetration the Boks lacked. Coach Peter de Villiers missed a trick but not handing Aplon a start.
Januarie, Jean de Villiers and Rossouw made some sort of atonement for their earlier sins, combining sweetly for a Bok try at the end of the first half. Januarie held up the pass to create the space for the line-breaking De Villiers. The Boks cleared the ruck and Rossouw, playing in his 50th Test, showed incredible strength to fight his way over the line.
This try followed an incident where Rene Ranger was let off for a shoulder charge in plain sight of the referee and his assistant Alan Lewis. It pained to see Ranger scoring after half-time, and if he’s cited, it will affirm the fact that the Wellington officials made a costly gaffe in failing to show him yellow.
But it would be unfair to label the miss game-costing. The Boks let themselves down badly on defence, conceding four tries in all with replacement Israel Dagg embarrassing a series of defenders for the match clincher. Their discipline was poor, they were again outmuscled by a hungrier and smarter pack, and perhaps the scariest thing of all was the fact that Carter missed two penalties and three conversions to lend the scoreline an unreflective look.