South Africa rue slow start against the All Blacks

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That was one reason the South African ploy of sending their advance guard to Auckland to prepare for Saturday's likely Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship decider did not have New Zealanders quaking in their boots.

Even if New Zealand left some of its top performers out of the starting lineup against Argentina, they still got time off the bench or time to recover from the Super Rugby final. And by taking their 36-man squad to Argentina, they had the benefit of time together.

The clash of the two preparation styles was exposed in the first quarter at Mt Smart Stadium.

Running South Africa off their collective feet, the All Blacks romped to a 17-0 lead.

Nienaber could only reflect, "I think the first 15 or 20 [minutes], we gave away four consecutive penalties. We made a lot of mistakes."

That was due to some 'over-eagerness' on the part of those making their first appearance of the season.

"You can't start like that, with that many penalties and errors.

"Some of them were unforced from our side, but some were from the pressure they exerted on us.

"That put us under pressure, and the quality side New Zealand are, they capitalised on that, and then we played catchup rugby for the rest of the game."

Only when those substitutes, who had played a week earlier against Australia, were introduced in the second half did South Africa find some competitiveness to push the All Blacks.

"The guys that played last week came on in the second half, and you could see they were a little more battle-hardened and a little more exposed to rugby."

The early travel was a ploy used in 2019 when 15 players arrived early in New Zealand – a game when South Africa scored a late try to draw the game in Wellington.

They decided to do it differently this year, with fewer players sent early to mix up their approach.

"We knew that there were pros and cons there. We decided to go with the strategy, and the majority of guys have got an opportunity to play.

"Our plan was always to win the Rugby Championship, but to assess. We've got four more games to make sure we get our house in order before we go to the World Cup. So we got good answers, both games."


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