AWE­SOME ALL BLACKS WRAP UP TI­TLE EARLY

New Zealand seal the Rugby Cham­pi­onship with two games to spare

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N ew Zealand demon­strated yet again why they are the dom­i­nant force in world rugby by pro­duc­ing a scin­til­lat­ing sec­ond-half dis­play to crush South Africa and se­cure the Rugby Cham­pi­onships crown with two games to spare.

For once it seemed as though the All Blacks would be pushed as the Spring­boks opened up an early lead thanks to Bryan Ha­bana’s 66th Test try.

Even at the break it re­mained close with New Zealand lead­ing 15-10 thanks to tries from Is­rael Dagg and Julien Savea.

But the sec­ond pe­riod saw the home side outscore the Boks 26-3, with Ben Smith, Ardie Savea (right), Sam White­lock and TJ Per­e­nara all cross­ing the white­wash.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a tough one,” said All Blacks cap­tain Kieran Read. “The Boks have got a lot of his­tory, es­pe­cially in All Blacks-Spring­boks games.

“We cer­tainly had to work for it. I’m proud of the lads. We showed a lot of in­tent, es­pe­cially in the first half with­out some ac­cu­racy and prob­a­bly cranked it up in the sec­ond half.”

SAVEA BROTHERS A REAL THREAT

The All Blacks were sim­ply un­stop­pable in the sec­ond 40 min­utes as they made the most of their ter­ri­to­rial chances.

While the Spring­boks, com­ing off suc­ces­sive losses to Ar­gentina and Aus­tralia, played with real courage they lacked the fin­ish­ing abil­ity of New Zealand.

The Savea brothers looked a threat through­out, while hooker Dan Coles was sen­sa­tional in the off­load, turn­ing provider for New Zealand’s last three tries. “Play­ing a side like New Zealand on the day, they were great and we have to give them that credit,” said South Africa skip­per Adri­aan Strauss.

“There’s a lot of hard work still ahead for us.”

While South Africa are grad­u­ally im­prov­ing, New Zealand are hit­ting new heights. They are now un­beaten in 44 Tests at home since their last loss to the Spring­boks in 2009 – and in 15 Tests home and away since they were last beaten by Aus­tralia.

Hav­ing al­ready se­cured crush­ing wins over the Wal­la­bies (42-8 and 29-9) and Ar­gentina (57-22), New Zealand could take their foot off the gas in their re­main­ing two fix­tures.

How­ever, it is more likely they will want to con­tinue to dom­i­nate against South Africa and Ar­gentina as they pre­pare for a home se­ries next year against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions.

“It is never hard get­ting up for a game,” stressed Read. “We love putting on the jersey and rep­re­sent­ing our coun­try.”

WORK IN PROGRESS

Even more wor­ry­ing for their ri­vals is the fact that this All Blacks team is still some­what of a work in progress af­ter los­ing more than 800 Test caps since their tri­umphant World Cup cam­paign. De­spite los­ing Richie Mc­Caw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Wood­cock, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, New Zealand have crushed Wales and now se­cured the Rugby Cham­pi­onship crown. Even coach Steve Hansen has been taken aback with how well the team has coped un­der new cap­tain Read. “I knew that we had some re­ally tal­ented peo­ple but we had also lost a lot of tal­ent,” said Hansen. “The thing we lost the most was ex­pe­ri­ence. What I have been so pleased with is how Reado has stepped up and his lead­er­ship group have gone to an­other level.”

AN IN­TIM­I­DAT­ING SIGHT: The All Blacks, led by cap­tain Kieran Read (cen­tre), have won 15 straight Test matches

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