What should have been one of the highlights of John Smit's career ended yesterday with the South African captain stunned as they allowed New Zealand to come from behind and win the first game at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. Smit was making his 100th appearance as a Springbok, but the celebrations were put on ice by the revival from the All Blacks, which saw them score two tries in the closing moments
"It was terribly disappointing as I thought we had done enough to win," the hooker said. "I missed a tackle that led to one of the late tries and we were punished for too many silly mistakes." Richie McCaw, the New Zealand captain, had sympathy for his opponents, but was thrilled with how his side had fought back. "We realised the Boks would be a different beast from the one that faced us last month," he said. "Our second half pressure paid off but there is very little between the Tri Nations teams and rugby can be a cruel game."
Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, praised the fitness of his side after they scored two tries in the last three minutes. His side had shown "huge guts, huge character", he said. "They [South Africa] ran out of puff and we didn't," Henry said. Conrad Smith, the All Blacks centre, said the side had gone out to win, they had never talked about the bonus point they needed to claim the title. "Even at the end both teams were trying to win the game and that was great. We made a lot of mistakes and we played enough rugby to win two games. I'm glad the guys hung in because wins like that don't come along very often," he said.