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Ken Borland

Delighted McCaw celebrates 100th win 0

Posted on October 22, 2012 by Ken

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw was delighted that his 100th Test victory was achieved in such compelling fashion as the All Blacks beat South Africa 32-16 in their Rugby Championship match at Soccer City in Soweto on Saturday.

The world champions scored 20 unanswered second-half points to end the tournament in style and ensure McCaw’s unique landmark was made even more memorable.

“It’s pretty special, a performance like that is why you test yourself and you have to be part of a pretty special team to win 100 Tests.

“The mental side is the most challenging thing in top sport, you have to pitch up regardless of what happened last week. We put in a good performance against Argentina and we needed to back that up if we’re going to keep progressing. I’m just delighted that we did that for the first time this year,” McCaw told a news conference after the game.

While the All Blacks had already clinched the inaugural Rugby Championship title with their 54-15 win over Argentina last weekend, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said their performance on Saturday proved that they are worthy world champions.

“They are a great team, we were beaten by a better side today. We obviously still have a long way to go even though we’ve come up from fourth to second on the rankings.

“There’s obviously a big difference between second and first on the rankings and even though the All Blacks might play badly, they always have one or two brilliant players who get them off the hook.

“It will take a special side to beat them and they will need some luck and a referee who gives them all the 50/50 calls,” Meyer said.

The Springbok coach acknowledged that his team had simply made too many mistakes after dominating the first half to secure a 16-12 lead at the break.

“At half-time, we were in the game, we’d played the right game and kept them under pressure. But just after half-time we had a turnover against the best counter-attacking team and that put them ahead.

“Dan Carter was then superb as he controlled the game and it was very difficult for us to catch up. They forced us to take risks and the mistakes came, but they were soft moments,” Meyer complained.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the victory was an all-round effort.

“It was a great game of rugby, it’s not often you get a performance like that against a very good South African team. It was a great victory against a great opponent.

“The whole group is working well together, we’ve got the recipe for the cake right and the mental state is great. The team is well-led by Richie, who has won 100 Tests because he has great mental strength,” Hansen said.

The All Blacks took the game to another level in the second half and McCaw said the two tries they scored between the 41st and 53rd minutes had been the decisive moments.

“We didn’t get a lot of ball in the first half, but traditionally the time just before and after the break are key. We conceded a couple of penalties just before half-time, but straight away we struck back in the second half and that gave the team a lift after we had given ourselves a pretty stern talking to in the shed. From then on we were in control,” McCaw said.


Boks can’t bridge mental gap against All Blacks 0

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Ken


Richie McCaw, celebrating his extraordinary 100th Test win, said after New Zealand’s 32-16 victory over South Africa at Soccer City that the hardest thing at the top level of sport was the mental side of the game.

And that is where the All Blacks had the edge over the Springboks, as well as in the marvellous skills of their backline.

South Africa had dominated for long stages of the first half, without always converting that into points, but coach Heyneke Meyer would have settled for the 10-0 lead after the first quarter, being 16-12 at the break.

But as soon as the second half started, the All Blacks showed why they are the number one-ranked side in the world.

They won possession from the kick-off and, before the first minute had elapsed, fullback Israel Dagg, who broke South African hearts at the same stadium in 2010, had sniffed out the gap, broken through and thrown an overhead pass for the tireless eighthman Kieran Read to latch onto, leading to an easy try for bullocking centre Ma’a Nonu.

Twelve minutes later, the Springboks’ backline defence went horribly awry and the All Blacks’ other centre, Conrad Smith, was able to stroll over for what proved to be the match-winning try.

They were two more of the “soft moments” that have dogged this inexperienced Springbok team through the competition and they come down to lapses in concentration.

“We have to learn from our mistakes and get mentally tougher,” Meyer said after the game. “In the first half, we had them under pressure, they had to keep playing from deep, and at half-time we were in the game, leading 16-12.

“But just after half-time, we had a turnover against the best counter-attacking team and that put them ahead. Dan Carter was then superb as he controlled the game and it was very difficult for us to catch up. They forced us to take risks and the mistakes came, but they were soft moments,” Meyer complained.

“The defensive mistakes were down to a lack of experience, but they should not have happened, because it’s backs against backs. Those were soft moments again.”

The costly mistakes weren’t just on defence, either. If Bryan Habana could have held onto the ball while cutting inside five metres from the line, or the Springboks had maintained possession after a rolling maul had carried them deep into the All Blacks’ 22, they might have been able to put some pressure on the visitors in the final quarter.

Not that this All Blacks team seems overly susceptible to pressure. Despite hardly seeing the ball or being able to get out of their own territory for most of the first half, there was no panic or doubt.

They have a marvellous predatory instinct to strike with precision when the time is right, with Dagg and wing Hosea Gear playing with cat-like stealth and proving too much of a handful for the Springbok defence.

Meyer was being realistic when he said after the game that there was still a big gap between the two teams.

“There’s obviously a big difference between second and first on the rankings, and even though the All Blacks might play badly, they always have one or two brilliant players who get them off the hook.

“It will take a special side to beat them and they will need some luck and a referee who gives them all the 50/50 calls,” Meyer said.

The Springboks will take some heart from New Zealand coach Steve Hansen praising them for being “a great opponent”, but, more importantly, will the youngsters in the South African side take on board the lessons learnt and use it to become better rugby players?

“That’s a very good Springbok team and it will only get better. They will build some character out of today and it was a great victory for us against a great opponent,” Hansen said.

There is certainly no lack of hunger or desire in the Springbok team, and they once again dominated the All Blacks up front in the first half, as well as producing some good attacking play and showing a willingness to get the ball wide.

It will be a long process for this Springbok team to challenge the world champions; that sort of brilliance does not come quickly.

The New Zealand squad currently has six of the most capped All Blacks in history by position: Tony Woodcock (prop, 91 caps), Keven Mealamu (hooker, 99 caps), Richie McCaw (flank, 112 caps), Dan Carter (flyhalf, 91 caps), Ma’a Nonu (inside centre, 72 caps) and Conrad Smith (outside centre, 62 caps); while Owen Franks (40), Andrew Hore (71), Cory Jane (37), Kieran Read (44), Piri Weepu (65) and Sam Whitelock (34) are all well-established on the international stage.

Jean de Villiers, Jannie du Plessis, Habana, Tendai Mtawarira and Ruan Pienaar are the only Springboks with more than 30 caps.

But it seems likely that this Springbok team will be better for their tough experiences this year, and they will be considerably stronger with Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn back from injury.

But the All Blacks are without doubt the benchmark in world rugby at the moment and the Springboks will be aiming to replicate their composure and brilliance under pressure.

As the hookers (ahem, not the rugby variety!) told me at New Zealand’s Sandton hotel on Saturday night, “Everybody is loving All the Blacks”.

And with good reason. The Springboks will be a better team for Saturday’s lesson.

NZ have too much attacking firepower for SA 0

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Ken

New Zealand had too much counter-attacking firepower for South Africa as they beat them 32-16 in their Rugby Championship Test at Soccer City in Soweto on Saturday.

There were promising signs in the first half for the Springboks as they dominated for long stages and led 16-12 at the break.

But the All Blacks stepped up a gear in the second half to scoreĀ 20 unanswered points for their 16th successive win, just two short of the world record, and completed an unbeaten run through the tournament.

Lock Sam Whitelock, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and centres Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith scored tries for the world champions, with flyhalf Dan Carter adding three conversions, a penalty and a drop goal.

South Africa scored a 13th-minute try by wing Bryan Habana, converted by flyhalf Johan Goosen, who also kicked a penalty before limping off with a heel injury.

His replacement, Elton Jantjies, also kicked two penalties just before half-time to give the Springboks the lead at the break but this was short-lived.

The All Blacks struggled initially to handle the Springboks up front, especially in the set-pieces, and the home side successfully pinned the visitors in their own territory for long periods.

But this did not initially bring reward as Goosen missed two early penalties, before centre Jean de Villiers and wing Habana combined brilliantly and used their years of experience together to fashion a try off a lineout move, flank Willem Alberts having provided momentum as he crashed the ball up.

The experienced duo combined well again midway through the first half, winning a penalty for the Springboks, which Goosen kicked to give the hosts a 10-0 lead and leaving New Zealand with a small hill to climb at altitude in front over 80 000 hostile fans.

But South Africa then provided the All Blacks with broken-field ball, centre Jaco Taute failing to find touch from a clearing kick, and they immediately pounced. Wing Hosea Gear, chosen for this match ahead of Julian Savea who scored two tries last weekend, made the half-break, found eighthman Kieran Read in support and he sent Whitelock storming down the right touchline and reaching over for the try.

New Zealand struck again six minutes before half-time as Habana broke the defensive line for the slim chance of an intercept, allowing Carter to break free, Gear again playing a prominent role and setting up Aaron Smith for an easy run-in.

The All Blacks’ narrow 12-10 lead was overhauled by Jantjies’ two penalties just before the break, but the World Cup holders produced some marvellous rugby in the second half.

New Zealand won possession from the kickoff, fullback Israel Dagg showing dazzling skills as he broke through the line and then found Read, whose tremendous linking play saw him win the man of the match award, with an overhead pass. Nonu was on his inside for the simplest of tries.

Carter’s angled conversion put the visitors 19-16 ahead and the Springboks had a chance of levelling the scores in the 49th minute, but Jantjies hit the post with a penalty.

The All Blacks continued to capitalise on the mistakes of the Springboks and Conrad Smith took advantage of gaping holes in their backline to score in the 53rd minute.

The defence of the Springboks did improve, keeping the All Blacks outside their 22 for a long period, before Carter slotted a drop goal to stretch the lead to 29-16.

The All Blacks were cruising in no obvious difficulty even with Dagg yellow-carded for stealing the ball illegally at a ruck, and the masterful Carter had the final say with a penalty in the 72nd minute that made the final score 32-16.

The Springboks were left to rue not only the errors that led to New Zealand tries, but also the times their own attacks broke down, with Habana dropping the ball when going for the tryline five metres out and another turnover deep inside the 22 after the home side had made good progress with the rolling maul.


Boks battling mighty All Blacks & unfair expectation 0

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Ken


It is palpably unfair, but Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is painfully aware that if his team lose to the world champion All Blacks at Soccer City on Saturday then general opinion in the country will be that South African rugby is going to the dogs.

An impressive 31-8 victory last weekend over Australia lifted the mood, but has also created unfair expectations that the Springboks are favourites to beat New Zealand, who boast 939 test caps compared to South Africa’s paltry 490, and are, of course, the World Cup holders and unbeaten in 15 matches stretching back a year.

“We need to keep on evolving and, in this country, that’s usually judged by the result alone. If we put on a bad show, then we’re back where we started. We gained some momentum last weekend, and we want to build some more to take with us on the end-of-year tour,” De Villiers said on Friday.

“We played very well last weekend, but the pressure is still on us to perform. Australia had injury upon injury during that game, which definitely had an impact, so we’re not suddenly thinking we’re a great team. We’re happy with the improvement shown, but we’re very aware that we need to step up to another level this weekend.”

South Africa overwhelmed the Wallabies and did enough up front to beat the All Blacks in Dunedin in their last two outings and that has definitely added to the expectation.

But the All Blacks received plenty of flak from their fans for that performance in Dunedin and are also chasing the world record for successive wins, currently sitting on 15 with just three more needed to equal Lithuania’s mark set in 2010.

And that means Richie McCaw’s men have a point to prove and will come out firing.

“Our big goal is to be better than we were 12 months ago and if we don’t get things right tomorrow, then we’ll undo a lot of the good work we’ve done. Even though we’ve won the Rugby Championship, there’s still this big challenge ahead of playing the Springboks at home. It will be a huge test of where we are as a team,” McCaw said.

Eighthman Kieran Read was even more demanding in his analysis of what was riding on the game.

“It would really cement our number one status to win away from home against one of the top sides. If we don’t win, then a lot of what we’ve achieved goes out the window. To be number one, you can’t just win at home and it’s really important to win this weekend, there’s no bigger challenge than playing the Springboks at home,” Read said.

The one area where the hosts should definitely show an improvement as compared to their last match against the All Blacks will be in turning their possession into attacking opportunities.

With Johan Goosen making his first start at flyhalf, they scored five tries against Australia and could of scored more, thanks to an attacking edge that had been absent until then.

De Villiers will not place the hopes of the team in one man, especially one so young and still relatively unproven at the highest level, but he did confirm the 20-year-old Free Stater would be a key figure.

“Johan will be under pressure, but not a lot seems to bother him, he just gets on with the job. The bigger the event, the bigger his response seems to be. He’s a great player with unbelievable talent and a good head on his shoulders,” De Villiers said.

McCaw acknowledged Goosen’s threat.

“Goosen certainly played well last week, he got good ball and used it well so guys like Bryan Habana could benefit. He certainly backs himself and we’ve seen his ability with the Cheetahs in SuperRugby, so we’ll have to keep an eye on him and limit the amount of good ball he gets,” McCaw said.

While the All Blacks must be favourites on Saturday and will surely not deviate much from their expansive, fast-paced game that likes to get the ball wide, there is still plenty of intrigue surrounding the match, the 85th in this great rivalry between the two greatest rugby nations.

De Villiers is relishing the cat-and-mouse build-up to what should be an epic occasion on the outskirts of Soweto.

“We expect anything from the All Blacks, this mental battle, trying to outwit each other, that’s what’s great about Test match rugby. But we have an idea what we think they’re going to bring to the table,” the Springbok skipper said.

The Springboks will be tested in the scrums by the quality front row of Woodcock, Hore and Owen Franks, although Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira have been in good form themselves.

We can expect an almighty tussle in the lineouts, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen recognising South Africa’s strength in that area by choosing Adam Thomson in the squad ahead of a more traditional openside flank in Sam Cane.

The All Blacks obviously have proven match-winners in McCaw and flyhalf Dan Carter, but Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw were destructive forces in the ruck last weekend in Pretoria and it will be vital that they keep the New Zealand loosies in check.

The All Blacks backs are the obvious danger. The masterful Carter has the world’s most accomplished current centre pairing in Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith to work with, while the attacking threat posed by the back three of Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Hosea Gear is the stuff of nightmares.

If the kicking game is not absolutely spot-on, or the chase is tardy in any way, the All Blacks will punish the Springboks.

The previous rugby Test at Soccer City proves the point. With the scores tied up at 22-22 in the final minute, Nonu broke from deep and Dagg finished a spectacular match-winning try.

The All Blacks have shown a liking for the big stage and with over 90,000 people expected in Nasrec on Saturday, they will be out to dazzle.

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