South Africa 18; New Zealand 5
Well; we got that one wrong. The All Blacks played all the rugby, but made too many mistakes. South Africa played a conservative game, and fed from the mistakes through the boot of Morne Steyn.
That's the game summarised in a nutshell; as Barnsley Bill noted on our preview thread, it was all sizzle and no sausage. The All Blacks played like an untested combination, and although they played some electrifying football at times, they were soundly beaten.
We're not going to dwell at length on the result, or even on a dreadful refereeing decision which denied Jimmy Cowan a try when South African TMO Shawn Veldtman offered the referee a piece of advice that he is prevented by law from doing. It happened; move on. Rather, we'll look at some of the pluses and the minuses.
On the plus side, Israel Dagg had a storming game from the back, almost setting up two tries with sublime counter-attacking. There wasn't much else to enthuse on from the backs however. Sonny Bill Williams was strong on defence, and Richard Kahui made some strong runs, but they looked rusty. Isaiah Toeava and Hosea Gear (is that the most Biblical back three in international rugby; two prophets and the Holy Land?) had good moments and bad, and Toeava's hands are still an issue. Corey Jane probably earned a RWC place by not starting. Colin Slade was timid, and the backline's fluency improved with Ellis and Weepu coming on late in the game.
In the forwards Ali Williams and Sam Whitelock were the stand-outs, and Keven Mealamu did some good work in the loose. Doubts linger over Liam Messam's ability to step up to international rugby, and Adam Thompson had a forgettable game, and that reduced Jerome Kaino's effectiveness. Tony Woodcock will be better for the run, and John Afoa was adequate, but may be surplus to requirements on Tuesday.
We hope that some of Graham Henry's selection questions were answered by this match. As we said above, it was a match in which some All Blacks may have played their way out of RWC contention. And looking ahead, it's better that we find out now who can step up.
We awoke and watched the match live. We'll be deleting it from the MySky disc; it's not a performance that one would want to watch again. The selectors might however like to catch a replay of Manawatu's absolute demolition of Waikato last night...