Mark Els

Cardiff - South Africa beat New Zealand 22-18 (halftime 16-12) in their third-place playoff match of the rugby World Cup at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Thursday night.

Springbok wing Breyton Paulse scored the only try of the first half in what was almost a carbon copy of Frenchman Philippe Bernat-Salles' touchdown against New Zealand in the semifinal last Sunday.

And, in keeping with the tradition of this tournament, South African fullback Percy Montgomery managed to get in two drop goals. Flyhalf Henry Honiball, in his final test for South Africa, also scored his first World Cup points as he weighed in with three penalties and a conversion for a contribution of exactly half the Springboks' total.

New Zealand's points all came off the boot of flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens, who kicked six penalties.

Mehrtens put the All Blacks ahead with a penalty after 10 minutes, but not 60 seconds later Montgomery took his chance with a drop goal from 30 metres out.

It was not the greatest kick as the fullback barely managed to get either height or range. But, as fate had smiled so favourably on Jannie de Beer's five field goals against England and again with a near-impossible penalty kick on the stroke of full-time against Australia, Montgomery's effort propelled the ball just enough to bounce against and over the crossbar to equalise.

South Africa were awarded their first penalty five minutes later and Honiball scored his first World Cup points as he gave the Springboks a 6-3 lead.

The All Blacks drew level again with another Mehrtens penalty and again the Springboks struck back within the minute to take back the lead.

Paulse, snatching his opportunity, kicked the ball with a delicate chip ahead, chased after it as he dodged through the New Zealand defence and kicked it twice more on his way down 60 metres of the Millennium Stadium pitch.

On the tryline, centre Christian Cullen almost beat Paulse in the scramble for the ball, but the Springbok wing's quicker reflexes got the better of the All Black centre as Paulse got his hand to the ball first. Honiball's conversion gave South Africa a 13-6 lead.

Mehrtens added another two penalties for New Zealand and Honiball one more for South Africa to peg the score at 16-12 at half-time.

At the restart, Mehrtens missed a crucial penalty from 40 metres which could have reduced the gap to 16-15 and Honiball's penalty kick from the halfway line seconds later also failed, as the ball bounced back off the cross bar.

The Natal number 10 gave South Africa the additional three points with his fourth attempt on 49 minutes - giving the Springboks a seven-point lead - but Mehrtens cut back the All Black deficit with his fifth successful penalty to put the score at 19-15.

After 70 minutes, penalty number seven against South Africa gave Mehrtens 18 points to bring New Zealand to within a point of their opponents.

Montgomery was given another gap on the Kiwi 22-metre line and he wasted no time putting over his second drop goal to restore the Springboks' four-point lead, which held until the final whistle.

Scorers:

New Zealand: Flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens kicked six penalties.

South Africa: Try by right wing Breyton Paulse (26th minute). Flyhalf Henry Honiball kicked one conversion and three penalties. Fullback Percy Montgomery kicked two drop goals.

Teams:

New Zealand: Jeff Wilson, Tana Umaga (Pita Alatini 42), Christian Cullen, Alama Ieremia, Jonah Lomu, Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall, Taine Randall (capt), Josh Kronfeld, Reuben Thorne (Dylan Mika 67), Royce Willis, Norm Maxwell, Kees Meeuws, Mark Hammett (Anton Oliver 72), Craig Dowd (Carl Hoeft 52).

South Africa: Percy Montgomery, Breyton Paulse, Robbie Fleck, Pieter Muller, Stefan Terblanche, Henry Honiball, Joost van der Westhuizen (capt) (Werner Swanepoel 61, Van der Westhuizen 69), Andre Vos (Ruben Kruger 76), Andre Venter, Johan Erasmus, Mark Andrews (Albert van den Berg 68), Krynauw Otto, Cobus Visagie, Naka Drotske (Chris Rossouw 77), Os du Randt (Ollie le Roux 51).

Referee: Peter Marshall (Australia). - Sapa