Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Top 10 wins against the Springboks

Cory Jane offloads the ball in front of a 94,000-strong crowd in Johannesburg last year, as the All Blacks took their 10th Tri-Nations title. Photo / Getty Images
Cory Jane offloads the ball in front of a 94,000-strong crowd in Johannesburg last year, as the All Blacks took their 10th Tri-Nations title. Photo / Getty Images

Wynne Gray picks the best All Black wins over South Africa since 1992

1 - 1992, Johannesburg All Blacks 27 Springboks 24

We were not to know it but this was a sneak insight for the World Cup final three years later. It was also the All Blacks' first trip to South Africa since 1976, the sides first meeting since the tumultuous 1981 series and the Boks' first test since isolation.

The All Blacks warmed up with a trip to Australia then four games in the Republic before heading for the test at Ellis Park.

There were threats the game would not go ahead and unwelcome anthems would be sung before Australian referee Sandy MacNeill signalled time on for the teams and 72,000 spectators.

The All Blacks surged out to a strong lead built on a concerted forward effort, Zinzan Brooke's cheeky tap penalty try and Grant Fox's kicking. Then they hit the wall or lost their concentration as the Boks scored twice.

2 - 1996, Pretoria All Blacks 33 Springboks 26

This was the sixth tour to South Africa and surely the All Blacks' best chance to win a series there. They had a superb team, and were not disadvantaged by illness as they had been at the previous year's World Cup final.

Hopes of a series win rose with a 21-11 lead at the break after several superb tries. But anxiety levels rose when backup five-eighths Simon Culhane was hurt. Ice-cool utility Jon Preston strode on to the park and nailed all his duties. The All Blacks were in front but the Boks were smashing at their line.

Then the sweet music came from Didier Mene's whistle and the exhausted All Blacks showed a remarkable range of emotion at their victory. Some saluted someone in the atmosphere, others hugged, Fitzy banged the stadium turf in relief and exultation. At last the hex had been broken, the barriers beaten down, the World Cup champions beaten.

3 - 1997, Johannesburg All Blacks 35 Springboks 32

The year before the All Blacks had claimed their historic series triumph. Now they were back, still undefeated under coach John Hart and captain Sean Fitzpatrick. All the big guns were still playing and new faces like Tana Umaga, Taine Randell and Carlos Spencer were appearing.

The All Blacks were behind at halftime and lost their skipper to injury not long after. It was a grim struggle. While the All Blacks scored four tries to two they had to contend with Jannie de Beer, another of the conveyer-belt of marksmen the Springboks produced.

Four penalties, two conversions and two drop goals scorched off his right boot as he and Spencer, in just his fourth test, duelled in a kicking contest down the home stretch.

Spencer was in the zone. He kicked six from seven attempts and held up in the showdown to kick the All Blacks home by a goal. The All Blacks' run continued but this game was the signal Fitzpatrick's injury-enforced abdication was close, it had just four more tests to run.

4 - 1999, Dunedin All Blacks 28 Springboks 0

This was a "blackout" as Josh Kronfeld quipped, a hell of a way to start the Tri-Nations and a relief for captain Taine Randell who had been facing increasing heat about his leadership. His comment that the win made up for a lot of things was a sign of the tension around the team and the captain.

The All Blacks, wearing their latest uniform, took half a game to get going. Then Marshall, Cullen and Wilson scored and Mehrtens kicked the goals.

Jonah Lomu had a late cameo but the man he replaced, Tana Umaga, had been one of the stars of the rout and continued in that mode for the whole season.

The Boks felt they had a great chance at the break, but their mistakes and clumsy back play dashed those hopes.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks made the most of less possession which the gifted Cullen and others turned into points while their defence shut out the Boks for the first time in 34 years.

5 - 2002, Durban All Blacks 30 Springboks 23

Security was always a concern in South Africa and this was not one of their finer moments.

A "who ate all the pies" Springbok supporter, Pieter van Zyl, became so aggrieved that referee David McHugh was penalising the Boks out of the game that he clambered out of the crowd and waddled halfway across the field.

He crash-tackled the ref before Richie McCaw and A.J. Venter noticed, parked their rivalry and pounded Porky Pete into the turf. He got a blood nose and sore ribs for his trouble, and an apparent life ban, while McHugh dislocated his shoulder and had to be replaced.

It was not the only interruption. The security forces were still in la-la land late in the game when another South African supporter hurdled the fence, staked a flag in the turf and then scooted off.

Around all these shenanigans, the All Blacks managed to score a late try to Aaron Mauger to claim victory.

6 - 2003, Pretoria All Blacks 52 Springboks 16

This was a big year, a World Cup season, but it started badly when England won in shocking conditions at the Cake Tin. Wales were then slaughtered, but France were only narrowly beaten. Still to come were the annual tussles against the Boks and Wallabies.

First up the Boks in Pretoria - and what a revelation. Not the Boks but the Blacks. They stormed around the local fortress with such panache and daring that they scored seven tries and set New Zealand rugby circles buzzing.

What was supposed to be a celebration of Nelson Mandela's birthday turned into a wake for Springbok rugby.

Their scrum was monstered and their back play was unsophisticated. Against them, the All Blacks produced brilliant ball movement, passing and interplay as Doug Howlett and Joe Rokocoko scored doubles in a masterly team performance.

Some of the national concern lifted, although there were the accompanying warnings that the Boks had had a very bad day at the office.

7 - 2003, Melbourne All Blacks 29 Springboks 9

The All Blacks came to this World Cup quarter-final knowing they had lost both previous tournament meetings in 1995 and 1999 to the Boks. They were also coming off a patchy win against Wales.

There were also doubts about the health of their enforcer, Jerry Collins, who was taken off in the previous match with tender ribs. But after a slow start the All Blacks got into the groove, Leon MacDonald started kicking goals and Carlos Spencer weaved his magic. Joe Rokocoko scorched round the track and Keven Mealamu showed his uncanny try-scoring ability. Chris Jack restored some power to the set-piece and the All Blacks slowly turned the screw on their old rivals.

Victory returned the team's tournament optimism while the Boks made their earliest Cup exit, which sent coach Rudolf Straeuli and his Kamp Staalgraad tactics to the dump. This was the All Blacks' 11th successive win in 2003 with a semifinal against the Wallabies their next target.

8 - 2010, Johannesburg All Blacks 29 Springboks 22

A massive crowd of 94,000 packed into the new stadium and they got plenty of value for money though not the result they craved.

The Boks were leading by five with just minutes to go when All Black captain Richie McCaw got the benefit of a television match official ruling for a try in the corner. Daniel Carter missed the sideline conversion but the scores were level, a result the tourists would have taken.

Then midfielder Ma'a Nonu lost a shoe but not his composure in Springbok captain John Smit's ineffective tackle and sent a perfect pass to the trailing Israel Dagg.

The replacement wing took his time planting the ball in goal but the All Blacks had the victory and their 10th Tri-Nations title.

They had piled on the pressure in the last quarter, switching play, sending it wide, going up the middle, testing the Bok defence in all areas of the park. It seemed they had run out of time until the magic last minutes.

It gave them their eighth win in a row before a meeting with the Wallabies in Sydney on the way home.

9 - 2007, Christchurch All Blacks 33 Springboks 6

Another World Cup year and another shock. After promising starts and a narrow win in South Africa, the All Blacks stumbled against the Wallabies in Melbourne.

Now they were at home, readying for the Springboks again. Doug Howlett was recalled, Isaia Toeava was in, Piri Weepu started at halfback, Reuben Thorne was on the blindside and Keith Robinson made a rare locking appearance.

The standard of rugby was not top drawer, and the All Blacks were unable to use their extra-man advantage midway through the second half when Pedrie Wannenburg went to the sinbin. But that defensive work may have told, as the Boks conceded three tries in the last 12 minutes. Daniel Carter scored 23 points from his goalkicking and an injury time touchdown, and his long range punting pinned the Boks deep in their territory.

The show was back on the road but for how long and with what effect, with the World Cup only one more test at Eden Park against the Wallabies away?

10 - 2008, Cape Town All Blacks 19 Springboks 0

The ledger for the year against the Boks was 1-all, in New Zealand. Now the All Blacks had to travel to Cape Town.

Crucially, they had Richie McCaw back at openside after injury. In his return in the previous game he helped staunch a two-test losing sequence but the Boks were pumped to celebrate fullback Percy Montgomery's 100th test.

Referee Wayne Barnes was also back in the All Blacks headlights after his RWC performance but he was running the line, not the match, and his vision was sharper. The match was free-ranging but the All Blacks were able to keep a clean sheet.

They had troubles themselves notching points. Daniel Carter kicked just two from seven attempts but he scored a contortionist try lying on his back and planting the ball against the goalpost padding.

Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu added others as the All Blacks suffocated their rivals and added another golden chapter to their history.

- NZ Herald

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