The All Blacks have won their second match against South Africa in as many weeks with a 31-17 thrashing of the Tri-Nations defending champions.
The win perhaps wasn't as convincing as last week's at first glance but given the factors, it was every bit as impressive. Last week, the Springboks were overwhelming favourites and were rattled by the way the All Blacks took the game to them early on. This week, the Springboks were hurting and were up for it, not to mention they knew exactly how the All Blacks would play. It isn't uncommon to see a large scoreline in the first test of a series and then a much closer one in the second. This wasn't the case though as the All Blacks showed that they are the real deal this year, taking back-to-back bonus point wins over the Springboks.
An early yellow card saw the Springboks placed under immediate pressure. It seemed harsh and a reversal of the Springbok penalty should have been sufficient without having to go to the pocket. In saying that, one would have to wonder why Danie Rossouw would stick his hands in Richie McCaw's face in the first place. Just plain stupidity.
During the ten minutes Rossouw was off the All Blacks capitalised, scoring two tries through Ma'a Nonu and Mils Muliaina. Both tries remained unconverted by a Dan Carter who had a night to forget with the boot, kicking only three goals.
This meant that the Springboks were chasing the game from heroin and struggled to keep up with the All Blacks pace as they continued to threaten.
The Boks finally crossed the line three minutes before halftime through a great run by Ricky Januarie who was able to link up with Jean De Villiers and set it for Danie Rossouw to touch down from the pick and go.
A 13-7 score line at the break didn't reflect the All Blacks dominance, four missed kicks from Carter kept the score close and the Boks in the game for the time being.
The second half saw more positive rugby from the Springboks, particularly in the final 20, and they looked a lot better for it too. They still seemed to lack the ability to create anything themselves which meant the All Blacks defence was never put under any real pressure. Two more All Black tries saw the score go to 31-10 before the Schalk Burger touched down for one in the final 5 minutes to add some respectability to what was a night to forget for the men from the Republic.
The All Blacks side simply appeared to be more hungry for the win as they smashed the Springboks up front, allowing them to never get any go-forward and saw that they were able to get good clean ball to unleash their backs. The backs showed how much confidence they have, being prepared to keep on with their tactics of playing open running rugby in wet and windy conditions. The midfield pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith continues to get better and better and must now rate as the best in the world. Nonu is simply devastating on attack, drawing multiple defenders and providing good go-forward. Smith is an intelligent player who sets his outside man up well and has to be the top defender in the game.
Rene Ranger was solid in his All Black debut looking dangerous with the ball in hand, while Israel Dagg was pure class when he came on scoring the best individual try of the match.
Piri Weepu and Kieran Read were the two best players on the field. Weepu provided his backline with much faster ball than Cowan did and was dangerous running. Read just keeps getting better and better, his work rate is top notch, and provides good metres with ball in hand.
While still far from competitive, the Springboks were a much improved side from last week. Their lineout seemed to be back on song but clever thinking from the All Blacks saw that they weren't able to pinch too many against the throw. They persisted with their kick and chase tactics which are getting far too predictable and were easily countered by a superb All Blacks back three.
Schalk Burger seemed to be a one man band in the loose as Francois Louw and Pierre Spies didn't feature for a second week in a row. Ryan Kankowski looked good when brought on with ten minutes to go and it would seem likely that he would have to start in their game next week against Australia.
Their backs looked static, uncreative, and lost on defence. In fact, even when they did create opportunities they seemed to turn the ball over. Morne Steyn kicked well and Gio Aplon provided a some flare but other than this, there was very little to be pleased with in the backs from a Springbok point of view.
The Springboks now travel to Brisbane to take on the Wallabies in what is effectively a must win game to keep their Tri-Nations hopes alive. The All Blacks have the week off before travelling to Melbourne to take on Australia in two weeks time.