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August 3, 2009

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NZ coach defends strategy after loss

NEW Zealand coach Graham Henry defended his team's high-risk strategy of running the ball from everywhere after the team lost the Tri-Nations test against South Africa 19-31 in Durban on Saturday.

The All Blacks' policy backfired as they turned over possession or conceded penalties, which were punished by Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn, who kicked eight and scored a try and a conversion in his record Tri-Nations tally of 31 points.

Steyn's haul beat Andrew Mehrten's previous record of 29 points for New Zealand against Australia in Auckland in 1999.

"We tried to play a certain game and just didn't execute as well as we had hoped, which is a sign of the pressure we were under," Henry told a news conference.

"We had no platform from the set-pieces and it is difficult living off crumbs. We played the right way, we just didn't execute properly.

"Decision-making is the key and when you don't have a lot of ball, you try to create something with whatever you have. If we had nailed a couple of the opportunities we created then it could have been a different game because once you get close, it can create other opportunities.

"But it was the right style against this team, even though some of it was pretty high-risk," Henry said.

Far from dead

South Africa top the Tri-Nations standings after winning their first two games, both against the All Blacks, but coach Peter de Villiers said the outcome of the competition was far from dead and buried.

"We've only won two games, there are still four to go. But the platform is there. Next week (against Australia in Cape Town) will be a different kettle of fish and we start again on zero."

The Springbok coach added he was fortunate to have such rich pickings at his disposal when it came to selection.

Steyn was a replacement for the injured Ruan Pienaar, making his second start in his fifth test, while center Jean de Villiers and wing Bryan Habana played their 50th tests and captain John Smit led the team for a world record 60th time. "I'm blessed to have these type of players. You can't buy 60 tests as captain in any shop and it was impossible to tell whether Morne Steyn had three caps or 30 caps," de Villiers said.


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