Springboks off to a flier
South Africa kicked off their Tri-Nations campaign with a 28-19 victory over New Zealand in Bloemfontein.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 25/07/09 7:02pm
South Africa kicked off their Tri-Nations campaign with a 28-19 victory over reigning champions New Zealand at Vodacom Park.
In a match littered with penalties, Jaque Fourie's opportunistic try with nine minutes remaining proved the difference as the Springboks prevailed in the opening clash of their double-header on home soil.
The margin of victory would have been greater had it not been for three missed penalties from Ruan Pienaar in the first half, however the Bok fly-half atoned for his poor kicking display with a 33rd minute try.
The All Blacks, trailing 14-3 at half-time, responded through Conrad Smith eight minutes after the interval, but despite a near-flawless kicking game from Stephen Donald, the tourists still fell short.
The Kiwi fly-half started the scoring in the fourth minute in what was the first of six kickable penalty opportunities inside the opening 18 minutes.
His effort was quickly cancelled out by a sensational kick from inside his own half by Frans Steyn. However, when Pienaar reassumed set-piece duties the Boks failed to make their dominance tell.
The Sharks star missed two relatively straightforward penalties in three minutes before finally rediscovering his accuracy to put the hosts 6-3 ahead.
South Africa continued to dominate both territorially and with ball in hand as the All Blacks struggled with their own set-piece - losing their opening two line-outs in try-scoring positions.
The game burst into life on 25 minutes after a rampaging run from South Africa number eight Pierre Spies. The Blue Bulls powerhouse was held up by Richie McCaw but when the ball was recycled back and Jean de Villiers offloaded for Pienaar to dive over in the corner.
A missed conversion kept the score at 11-3 before Steyn maintained his 100 per cent record when Pienaar left the field for treatment to take the Boks into half-time 14-3 ahead.
Replacement Morne Steyn, who ended the 2009 Super 14 season as leading points scorer, took over kicking responsibilities in the second half and he nailed his first attempt to make it a 14-point lead two minutes after the break.
However, the All Blacks finally came to life five minutes later as outside centre 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 kept the All Blacks at arms length.
The visitors refused to lie down, though, Donald again piercing the posts after 64 minutes to cut the gap back to four, 20-16, heading into the final quarter of an hour.
But as nails were frantically being bitten in Bloemfontein, Piri Weepu's wayward pass was recovered by the Springboks and Fourie went over to punish the careless piece of play from the substitute scrum-half.
Morne Steyn's missed conversion allowed the All Blacks to stay in it thanks to another penalty from Donald, his 14th point in the match, but Steyn made no mistake the next time, with his kick three minutes from time ending the match.