Henry hails 'unforgettable' win

 

Rugby:New Zealand's performance against South Africa in Johannesburg, in which they won the Tri-Nations after snatching victory with two late tries, will live long in the memory, according to coach Graham Henry.

Captain Richie McCaw and Israel Dagg both touched down to see the All Blacks turn a five-point deficit with two minutes to play into a 29-22 victory at the 90,000 seater FNB Stadium to clinch a 10th Tri Nations crown.

The victory ruined South Africa captain John Smit's 100th Test appearance and also saw the world champions slip to a fourth successive defeat.

After the historic encounter at the venue more famously known as Soccer City, where the football World Cup final was played, Henry said: "They don't get any bigger than that - a huge Test match, played in front of that crowd in that stadium.

"I'm sure it will be pretty significant for the people who were there today.

"I just felt so proud of what they've achieved. The character, backed by their guts and togetherness was superb.

"So I think it was a very special win by the All Blacks today, an outstanding result and something we will never forget as far as we're concerned."

Henry, who described the victory as one of the biggest in his distinguished coaching career, also paid tribute to captain McCaw after his late contribution.

Apart from scoring a try, the flanker also made the turnover that enabled Dagg to cross the line.

Henry added of McCaw: "His contributions have been outstanding for the whole year.

"That's just an example of two situations which create match-winning performances.

"But I'm sure he'd want me to say that there were 14 other players out there and they all hung in together."

The Springboks, who were playing in front of their biggest crowd since the 1950s, were in command for most of the game and looked to be closing out their first win of the competition after 17 points from Morne Steyn and Schalk Burger's try saw them head into the closing stages with a five-point lead.

But the late drama caught them by surprise and coach Peter de Villiers paid full tribute to their opponents.

"Well done to them," he said. "Last year when we won it we were over the moon at that stage.

"They deserved it this year with the kind of rugby they played."

Despite the disappointment, De Villiers acknowledged that they had improved after a woeful away leg of the competition.

"For us it's a great disappointment because we don't like losing," he added. "I just came back from a funeral now back there in the dressing room. That's how hard the guys take it.

"But we really made a hell of a step up from our Australasia tour.

"The one thing we all are now aware of is that as winning becomes a habit, so does losing.

"We now just have to hope for some luck and change that around."