BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, July 25 (Reuters) - Jaque Fourie scored a late try as South Africa opened their Tri-Nations campaign with a 28-19 victory over holders New Zealand in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Fourie raced down the right touchline for a 72nd-minute try to clinch the win while Morne Steyn completed the scoring with an angled penalty from halfway with just two minutes remaining.
The win enabled the Springboks to reclaim top place in the world rankings from the All Blacks. South Africa also defeated the British Lions 2-1 earlier in the season.
"It's just a ranking, but I guess it's important. We were proud to be number one but it didn't count for a lot," New Zealand coach Graham Henry told a news conference.
"This is the best Bok side we've played against and they've developed into a very fine team. They deserve a lot of credit and they deserve to be number one.
Flyhalf Ruan Pienaar scored a 26th-minute try and kicked a penalty and fullback Francois Steyn added two penalties to give the Springboks a 14-3 half-time lead.
South Africa could have been out of sight at the break but for poor goal-kicking, with Pienaar missing four penalty attempts.
Coach Peter de Villiers replaced him at halftime with Steyn, who immediately kicked a penalty and added another in the 57th minute.
A Stephen Donald penalty was all New Zealand had to show for their first-half effort, but they quickly struck back after the break, closing the gap to 17-13 after centre Conrad Smith sped through for a try in the 48th minute and Donald added the conversion and a penalty.
The All Blacks' flyhalf enjoyed a solid day with the boot kicking two more second-half penalties.
Springbok vice-captain Victor Matfield dominated the lineouts, which enabled his team to build a solid foundation.
"We're very proud of our lineout and it's been good for the last few years. I was very happy that we were able to put them under pressure there, we drove well from the lineouts and that put us on the front foot," he said.
"It's nice to win, but it's just the first game and if we don't win the Tri-nations then it means nothing. We play to win trophies so we need to do this week in, week out."
Henry said his team had not taken their opportunities.
"There are no excuses, we were beaten by the better side on the day. We had our opportunities but we did not take them, we made too many errors," he said.