New Zealand retained their world number one ranking thanks to a commanding 32-12 win over South Africa in Auckland on Saturday.
New Zealand retained their world number one ranking thanks to a commanding 32-12 win over South Africa at Eden Park on Saturday.
It doesn't get better than this. The world's two best rugby teams didn't disappoint as they delivered the top-class encounter we had all expected.
However, the defending Tri-Nations champions could not match their hosts' attacking prowess as New Zealand romped home as four-tries-to-none winners.
A dominant first half from the All Blacks – helped by a yellow card for Bakkies Botha – saw the hosts lead 20-3 at half time. The second half went much the same way as the home side out-muscled and out-thought the world champions.
Lethal on the counter attack, and near-faultless in defence, Richie McCaw's men thoroughly deserved their victory.
Many had predicted that the Springboks would rule the set piece but the All Blacks scrum will feel they won the day and their jumpers competed efficiently at the line-outs.
A couple of technical infringements from the All Blacks gave the visitors an early advantage as Morne Steyn slotted an easy penalty.
The lead was short-lived however as referee Alan Lewis sent Botha to the sin-bin for a professional foul when the hosts were in full attack. Dan Carter did the job from the kicking-tee to make it all square at 3-all after fifteen minutes.
New Zealand soon pressed home their numerical advantage with Mils Muliaina launching a stunning counter-attack from deep inside his own territory to slice through the South African defence. McCaw was up in support to supply the link to Conrad Smith, who finished in the corner.
Carter's conversion gave the men in black a 10-3 lead to end the first quarter with the momentum firmly with the home side.
Botha's return didn't prevent the Bok scrum from buckling under pressure, allowing Carter to extend the lead to ten points with his second penalty.
It was one-way traffic for the rest of the half and when Jean de Villiers went looking for an intercept rather than defend his wing, the All Blacks were allowed to strike again. Ma'a Nonu bust through two tacklers to barge over from short range and as Carter added the extras, the writing was on the wall for the Springboks.
Seventeen points down at the break, the visitors needed to come up with something special in the second period and got off to a solid start as Steyn added two penalties soon after the restart, narrowing the gap to eleven points.
But the All Blacks crossed the whitewash for the third time with their first real attack of the half when Kieran Read made an unstoppable run to hit Piri Weepu's pop pass at pace and charge over.
The Springboks replied almost immediately with Steyn's fourth penalty but at 27-12 going into the last quarter, the result seemed beyond doubt.
Read took a quick penalty to allow Tony Woodcock to muscle his way over in the final minute to rub salt into South African wounds and secure the bonus point.
Man of the match: A couple of names stand out. Tom Donnelly and Ma'a Nonu trashed any doubts over their match readiness, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read ruled the battle of the loose forwards, but we'll go with Mils Muliaina, whose attacking vision is still as good as ever after all these years.
Moment of the match: It looked pretty even in the early stages, but from the moment Muliaina set off on that run to set up Conrad Smith's try, all the momentum was with New Zealand.
Villain of the match: Not for the first time, Bakkies Botha looks set for an appointment at a disciplinary hearing. Within a few minutes of kick-off he was using his head – but not for thinking.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Smith, Nonu, Read, Woodcock
Cons: Carter 3
Pens: Carter 2
For South Africa:
Pens: Steyn 3
Yellow card: Botha (SA, 13th min, professional foul)
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements:16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Richard Kahui.
South Africa:15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements:16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon.
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
By Ross Hastie