tri-nations clean sweep

WRECKING BALL: Springboks' Schalk Burger charges through the Welsh defence during the Test at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday. The Boks won 20-15.  08/11/08. ©  Gallo Images.
WRECKING BALL: Springboks' Schalk Burger charges through the Welsh defence during the Test at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday. The Boks won 20-15. 08/11/08. © Gallo Images.

LONDON - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia began their European tours with expected victories on Saturday, but without unleashing the full power of Tri-Nations rugby on their Six Nations opponents.

LONDON - South Africa, New Zealand and Australia began their European tours with expected victories on Saturday, but without unleashing the full power of Tri-Nations rugby on their Six Nations opponents.

The Springboks beat Wales 20-15 but had to withstand a strong comeback at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in a meeting between the World Cup holders and the Six Nation champions.

New Zealand won 32-6 against Scotland at Murrayfield, but Graham Henry's All Blacks looked far below their best form and will have to play better if they are to go home with a grand slam of victories with Ireland, Wales and England still to come.

Australia hit the front with seven minutes to go before winning 30-20 at Italy.

With 2003 World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson in charge as team manager, England beat the Pacific Islanders 39-13 at Twickenham.

Ireland crushed Canada 55-0 in Limerick in Declan Kidney's first game as coach. France beat Argentina 12-6.

South Africa led Wales 20-3 with tries to centres Adrian Jacobs and Jean de Villiers, and two penalties and two conversions by inexperienced flyhalf Juan Pienaar. But flyhalf James Hook kicked four penalties and winger Leigh Halfpenny added another to bring Wales within five points.

"We made it far tougher than we should have," Springboks captain John Smit said. "We took our foot off the accelerator and that cost us. After that we just got into the wrong frame of mind."

The All Blacks left stars Richie McCaw and Dan Carter on the bench until the second half, instead giving three players their debuts.

Although they scored four tries, the All Blacks made numerous errors and failed to punish the erratic play of the Scots. - Sapa-AP

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