The Lions were given a timely reminder of the size of the challenge they face next summer as the Springboks registered a stunning victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday.
A superb solo try from scrum-half Ricky Januarie saw South Africa claim their first win on New Zealand soil for a decade as they continue to build on their formidable reputation ahead of the 2009 Lions tour.
Peter de Villiers’ men produced a much improved performance from last weekend’s 19-8 defeat against the same opposition to ensure the All Blacks suffered their first defeat on their own territory in five years and only the fourth loss in their history at Carisbrook’s House of Pain.
Trailing 28-23 with just four minutes remaining, Januarie produced a moment of sheer brilliance to bring the Springboks back on level terms. The Western Province and Stormers No9 broke clear just outside the New Zealand 10 metre line before collecting his own chip ahead on his way to a sublime score.
Replacement centre Francois Steyn then held his nerve to hammer the conversion through the uprights to give his side the lead for the first time since the interval and, although New Zealand sought to strike back via two attempted drop goals from Dan Carter, the Springbok defence held firm to secure a much deserved win for the World Champions.
Lions head coach Ian McGeechan will have taken note of the tactical astuteness of opposite number de Villiers’ after the Springboks made far greater use of their lineout skills by kicking for touch rather than keeping the ball in play as they had done for most of last Saturday’s encounter. McGeechan will also find it hard to ignore the passion of a South African side that continually demonstrated their desire to minimise the All Blacks’ attacking options courtesy of an outstanding first up and scramble defence.
Having outscored the All Blacks by two tries to one, South Africa will now travel to Australia in confident mood as they turn their attentions to their third and final away match of this year’s Tri Nations against the Wallabies in Sydney next Saturday.