South Africa 32
New Zealand 29

The All Blacks suffered a recurring nightmare as the Springboks trumped them 32-29 tonight to claim the Tri-Nations rugby title.

In a test that bore many of the hallmarks of their recent twin defeats in South Africa, New Zealand crumpled in the face of concerted pressure to be whitewashed this year by the world champions.

It is the Springboks' third Tri-Nations title. They last won it in 2004, with the All Blacks successful in the subsequent four editions.

Both sides scored two tries while All Blacks first five-eighth Daniel Carter landed seven-from-seven shots at goal.

But his return fell short of the combined goalkicking prowess of Springboks first five-eighth Morne Steyn and fullback Francois Steyn, the latter of whom unleashed three booming penalties in the first spell.

The visitors appeared to have the result wrapped up when they led 29-12 with half an hour remaining, playing with a surety missing from their 6-21 loss to Australia at Brisbane last weekend.

However, they had to withstand a frantic All Blacks effort from that point, and the hosts could have snatched an unlikely win in the final act but a Carter crosskick sailed over the head of Isaac Ross and into touch when the lock appeared poised to claim a possible try.

Even had Ross scored, it wouldn't have been enough to deny the Springboks the Tri-Nations as they would have snared a bonus point.

New Zealand's finish belied a dreadfully error-prone performance for much of the test, making a serious botch of their lineouts and committing the sort of fundamental mistakes that dogged them in South Africa.

The Springboks were aggressive and accurate on defence and were to kick away the bulk of their possession and await All Blacks errors.

Halfback Fourie du Preez was an influential figure for the winners, scoring the only first-half try, and kicking astutely in general play.

Carter spent much of the game swapping positions with second five-eighth Stephen Donald in a selection experiment that backfired.

The All Blacks looked sharper when Isaia Toeava replaced Donald for the final quarter.

It took just one minute for Carter to become the highest scorer in Tri-Nations history, his opening penalty taking him to 329 points, one more than All Blacks first five-eighth predecessor Andrew Mehrtens.

It was to be their only lead of the game, as Francois Steyn's rocket launcher boot boomed into action, thumping his first penalty from 60m, his second from 57m and another later in the half from 52m.

Carter kept the hosts in range with four first-half penalties but ill discipline and South African pressure meant the hosts led 22-12 at halftime.

Morne Steyn dropped a goal in the 17th minute, followed by du Preez's try. It stemmed from his own bomb which was spilled by winger Joe Rokocoko, allowing the Springboks to surge to the line, where the crafty No 9 sniped over.

Second five-eighth Jean de Villiers, in his last test before leaving for a club contract in Ireland, virtually sealed the result 10min after the break with a trademark intercept try after latching on to a loose Carter pass.

Winger Sitiveni Sivivatu responded after a sizzling break near halfway by Toeava.

Carter's sideline conversion and a fifth penalty pulled New Zealand within seven points but Morne Steyn gave his team breathing space before All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw crossed 2min from fulltime off a Carter crosskick.

The final test of the Tri-Nations will be to avoid the wooden spoon, with New Zealand hosting Australia at Wellington next week.


- NZPA