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September 13, 2009

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Springboks win, dethrone All Blacks

MORNE Steyn and Francois Steyn combined to score 22 points from kicks as South Africa beat New Zealand 32-29 yesterday to win the Tri-Nations crown for the first time since 2004.

South Africa, which needed one competition point to win the title, finished with 21 points. The All Blacks (nine) now meet Australia (seven) in the final match in Wellington.

Fullback Francois Steyn kicked three prodigious first-half penalties - from 63, 59 and 52 meters - to lift his team to a 22-12 lead at halftime in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Flyhalf Morne Steyn kicked the conversion of a first-half try by halfback Fourie du Preez and added two penalties and a drop-goal as the Springboks deprived the All Blacks of the Tri-Nations title they had held for the past four years.

Jean de Villiers scored an intercept try in the 52nd minute, converted by Morne Steyn, who added a penalty to clinch the Springboks' win. In doing so, Steyn lifted his individual aggregate for the season to 95 points, a record in the Tri-Nations.

Flyhalf Dan Carter scored 19 points from goalkicks for New Zealand to become the seventh player in history to surpass 900 test points.

The All Blacks, needing to win to keep alive their chances of retaining the Tri-Nations title, rallied courageously after trailing 12-29 early in the second half.

Tries by winger Sitiveni Sivivatu in the 55th and by captain Richie McCaw two minutes from fulltime, both converted by Carter, brought them within a whisker of an extraordinary comeback win.

Enough composure

The Springboks, who faded in the last 20 minutes, were able to retain just enough composure and defensive control to seal the match and the series.

"It was epic," said South African John Smit, who led his team with a strong individual performance.

Smit, who spent most of the match bloodied by a damaged nose, answered critics of his scrumming ability with an outstanding effort at set pieces and was a pillar of South Africa's defense.

"We said at halftime that the All Blacks are an 80-minute team and they didn't let us down," Smit said. "They came at us all through that second half. I'm happy my boys were able to hang in there."

The win was the Springboks' third over the All Blacks in Tri-Nations matches, the first time South Africa has beaten New Zealand in three straight tests since 1949.

Carter opened the scoring with a penalty seconds after the kickoff, before Francois Steyn slotted two giant kicks for the visitors.

Carter equalized with a penalty from the first scrum of the match in the 14th but Morne Steyn snapped a drop-goal three minutes later which gave the Springboks a lead they never relinquished.

Du Preez scored the first try of the match in the 19th when All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko failed to claim a high kick and lock Bakkies Botha pounced on the loose ball, drove to the line and Du Preez darted over through thick defense.

"We came back well and possibly could have stolen it at the end there but, then, perhaps we didn't deserve to win," McCaw said.


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