All Blacks fail to take chances

Without the experience of key players the All Blacks were guilty of impatience at crucial moments. Photo / Getty Images
Without the experience of key players the All Blacks were guilty of impatience at crucial moments. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand were left to reflect on what might have been after blowing a series of try-scoring opportunities in their 18-5 Tri-Nations rugby loss to South Africa in Port Elizabeth this morning.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry identified six chances his under-strength side created but they only managed to convert one, resulting in a try to centre Richard Kahui.

Springboks first five-eighth Morne Steyn made them pay for their profligacy by landing five penalties and a drop goal as the hosts extended their unbeaten run against the All Blacks in the Eastern Cape city to five matches.

Without the experience of captain Richie McCaw, first five-eighth Daniel Carter, lock Brad Thorn and fullback Mils Muliaina the All Blacks were guilty of impatience at key moments which cost them the chance to convert their early dominance into points.

Henry and assistant coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith would have been pleased to keep the hosts tryless, but less satisfied with other facets of the game.

The scrum was under pressure most of the match, the lineout also failed to function at its best and the Springboks, led by Heinrich Brussow, dominated at the breakdown.

For all who took the field it was their last chance to impress before the All Blacks name their squad on Tuesday for the World Cup and some made the most of their opportunity, while others failed to seize the chance.

Fullback Israel Dagg, playing his first test of the year after a lengthy recovery from a serious thigh injury, caught the eye with an all action display, including two line breaks both of which should have led to tries.

His second, eight minutes into the second half, saw halfback Jimmy Cowan go over, only for television match official, Namibia's Johan Meuwesen, to over-step his edict and to tell referee George Clancy of a forward pass before the try. The International Rugby Board's referees boss, New Zealander Paddy O'Brien said the officials got it wrong to disallow the try and their error would be raised at a review into their performance.

Wing Isaia Toeava and Kahui also impressed in their first test outings of the year and key loosehead prop Tony Woodcock also came through the match after recovering from a troublesome foot injury.

One who failed his audition was first five-eighth Colin Slade. The 23-year-old, short of rugby after two broken jaws this year, could not match the composure of his opposite and missed both of his kicks at goal.

Slade was not helped with the first-time pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and Kahui outside him, and a game plan that seemed intent on putting shallow kicks in behind the Springboks' defence rather than play for territory.

Henry refused to criticise Slade, who was replaced after 60 minutes by Piri Weepu, after the match.

The All Blacks coaches will put the final touches to their 30-strong World Cup squad today before travelling to Brisbane for Saturday's Tri-Nations decider against Australia. Despite Slade's less than convincing showing and rival Aaron Cruden's impressive provincial form for Manawatu it is unlikely they will change their mind on Carter's deputy.

Injured lock Anthony Boric, sidelined with a foot injury, will hope the selectors have faith he will be fit in time to add to his 20 test caps, if not, Jarrad Hoeata will be named in his place.

Liam Messam, who started at No 8 today, has struggled to recapture his Super 15 form for the Chiefs but should still see off Victor Vito for the final loose forward spot.

The competition for places is fiercest among the back three where Muliaina, Dagg, Toeava, Hosea Gear, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Cory Jane and Zac Guildford are competing for five places with the latter pair most likely to miss the cut.

- NZPA

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