|Victor Matfield suffered a dispiriting start to the Tri-Nations [GALLO/GETTY]|
New Zealand invoked memories of past encounters with South Africa to produce a superbly controlled and aggressive performance and record a 32-12 victory in their opening Tri-Nations clash.
The All Blacks, who had lost their three previous encounters against the world champions, soaked up wave after wave of green-jerseyed attackers to continue their long unbeaten run at Eden Park and give them an early advantage in their quest to recapture the Tri-Nations crown from the Springboks.
The All Blacks, who have not lost at the stadium in Auckland since 1994, scored tries through centres Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, number eight Kieran Read and prop Tony Woodcock.
Fly half Daniel Carter added three conversions and two penalties on Saturday.
South Africa flyhalf Morne Steyn slotted four penalties for the world champions, who have not won at the ground since 1937, and were comprehensively outplayed by a New Zealand team stung by last year’s three losses.
“I think it was a pretty special day for All Blacks rugby,” New Zealand coach Graham Henry said.
“It was a special day and every guy played well.
“I think the edge was created by the results from last year and the boys should be very proud.”
Springboks lock Bakkies Botha could have ended the game as a contest in the second minute when he head-butted All Blacks scrum half Jimmy Cowan in a tackle, but the incident was not seen by referee Alan Lewis.
The aggressive Botha, however, did not last much longer before he was yellow carded 11 minutes later for infringing on his own goal line.
Carter slotted the penalty to tie the score at 3-3 after Steyn had scored an early penalty.
While the Springboks attempted to slow the pace of the game, the All Blacks took advantage of the extra man with Mils Muliaina launching a blistering counter-attack up the middle of the park to set up Smith for the opening try, which Carter converted.
Carter gave his side a 10-point lead with his second penalty shortly after Botha had returned to the fray, before Nonu bludgeoned over from in close following a sustained build-up by the All Blacks, who took a 20-3 lead into the break.
Steyn added two quick penalties early in the second half as the Springboks looked to turn the momentum before the All Blacks settled back into the game.
The home side, however, held out with an aggressive defence line and unlike last year were more patient with the ball, building pressure while still playing at high speed and extended their lead when Read burst over following a sustained build-up.
Steyn reduced the gap with his fourth penalty before the All Blacks earned a bonus point for their fourth try when Woodcock barrelled over in the final minute.
“The All Blacks were really good tonight, they played with pace all over the field and in every facet they were better than us,” Springboks captain John Smit said.
“The lights were definitely out and the only good thing is that we can’t get any worse, but fortunately we have a week to try and fix it.”