Steyn blots All Blacks' copybook

BY RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2009

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A generation ago it was Gerald Bosch and Naas Botha.

In more recent times there have been Joel Stransky, Jannie de Beer and Percy Montgomery. Now there is Morne Steyn.

The factory that has produced goal kicking first five-eighths in the Republic over the years has had little trouble in spitting out the super boots, and the name Morne Steyn, in just his fourth test, has already etched his name in the record books as the highest individual points scorer against the All Blacks.

Steyn scored a try, kicked eight penalties and a conversion as the Springboks beat the All Blacks 31-19 at Durban's Absa Stadium yesterday morning and his only miss was a long-range shot on the bell.

Not that it mattered because that was only window-dressing. The test was won and the South Africans already celebrating.

Having waited his time behind Derick Hougaard who is now overseas at the Bulls for several seasons, Steyn has been relatively unknown to New Zealanders. He announced his arrival at the peak of international rugby when he scored 21 points, including a record four drop goals, in his franchise's win over the Crusaders in the Super 14 semifinal.

He then marked his test debut by banging over a 53-metre penalty in the final seconds of the second international against the British and Irish Lions to give them a 28-25 win and a 2-1 series victory. That was also in Durban.

Although the Springboks won the 2007 World Cup final against an England side that somehow clawed its way through pool play and the playoffs to qualify for the final, there was a suspicion they got that far because of a favourable draw and a New Zealand side that kept its form and again capitulated.

When All Blacks coach Graham Henry stated this was the best Springboks team he had coached against, he was bang-on.

On form the Boks, man for man, are superior to the All Blacks in most positions apart from tighthead prop, openside flanker and fullback.

If Dan Carter and Ali Williams were in the side, that would be two more votes to go the All Blacks' way. There can be no argument the Springboks deserved this 2-0 mini-series win in South Africa.

There was a suspicion that the 28-19 defeat suffered by the All Blacks in Bloemfontein was a hangover of the long travel and short turnaround from the previous weekend's 22-16 win over the Wallabies, but there could be no excuses yesterday.

Even if the All Blacks were not content to commit sporting suicide by continuing with their expansive game plan from all angles, the Boks would have had the edge.

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Their lineout, led by Victor Matfield, has the New Zealanders flummoxed, their scrum is on a par and their backs not that you see them much are man for man a better unit.

Captain John Smit may have been worked over by Tony Woodcock as he adjusts to the new position of tighthead prop to make way for Bismarck du Plessis, but his leadership cannot be questioned.

The arrival of Heinrich Brussow in the absence of the suspended Schalk Burger adds the fetching element to their loose forward mix and the hulking No8 Pierre Spies is a brute on attack and in defence where he has the knack of stripping the ball from his opponents.

Now there is Steyn.

There is just one nagging doubt. The Springboks always find it easy to be Tarzan at home, but can be the equivalent of Jane on the road. Whether they have solved that problem will be determined in Hamilton on September 12.

TEST STATS

Leading individual points scorers against the All Blacks in rugby tests for each leading nation:- 31 - Morne Steyn (South Africa) 2009 29 - Christophe Lamaison (France) 1999 24 - Matt Burke (Australia) 1998

OTHER RECORDS

Most points by any player in a Tri-Nations test, surpassing the 29 achieved by Andrew Mehrtens against Australia in Auckland in 1999. World record for most points scored by a player who has scored all their team's points. South African record for penalties in a test, beating the seven achieved twice by former fullback Percy Montgomery. --------------------

- The Press

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