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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boks Left All Black and Blue in Auckland...

This year's Tri-Nations competition kicked off on Saturday at Eden Park in Auckland, with the holders South Africa taking on the All Blacks, in what on paper looked to be a mouth-watering appetizer to kick off the new season with next year's Rugby World Cup-also to be played in Kiwi-Land now looming on the horizon.

The  All-Blacks looked the better of the two sides from the get-go, and won 32-12 in a match that was not even that close. New Zealand played with an intensity that had the Springboks on the back foot for most of the game. What really impressed me was the All  Black scrum, who had a very, very strong game from their front row. The All Black dominance even carried over to the line-outs, where the Sprinboks and their all-world second row, Victor Matfield usually reign supreme.

It would be the Springboks  other second row, Bakkies Botha, who would figure in a big way in this game-and his impact would be negative for the South Africans. The match referee, Alan Lewis missed Botha's head-butt on Jimmy Cowan, but was yellow-carded minutes later for a professional foul. Playing a man down, the Boks conceded a try by Conrad Smith-the first of four tries for the All Blacks, who earned the bonus point win with some sublime, hard-charging rugby. Center,Ma'a Nonu and Fullback Mulaina played really well with their physical runs. Dan Carter at fly-half was his usual self for the All Blacks in a great opener for Graham Henry's men.

Adding to the Springbok woes was finding out that Bakkies Botha will be suspended for 9 weeks-the rest of the Tri-Nations season for his head-butt on Cowan. The severity of the sanction is no doubt due to long rap sheet that the Blue Bulls second row has, including  this year's Super 14 play-offs, after being suspended for a month on a reckless charge, and he received a two-week ban for the same offence against the British & Irish Lions last year. Going even further back, Botha was also forced to
miss three weeks of last year's Super 14 for striking and in 2003 he was suspended for eight weeks after spitting at, biting and eye-gouging Australian hooker Brendan Cannon. 

The Springboks have a week to get their act together before taking on the All Blacks in Wellington, next Saturday. It cannot come soon enough for the South Africans to get the bad after taste out of their mouths from a very poor opening at Edcn Park.

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