2006 Tri Nations Series
|Champions||New Zealand (7th title)|
|Bledisloe Cup||New Zealand|
|Freedom Cup||New Zealand|
|Mandela Challenge Plate||Australia|
|Tries scored||42 (4.67 per match)|
|Attendance||406,899 (45,211 per match)|
|Top scorer(s)||Daniel Carter (99)|
|Most tries|| Lote Tuqiri (3)
Jaque Fourie (3)
The 2006 Tri Nations Series, an annual rugby union competition between the national teams of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, marked the tenth anniversary of the original competition. With three rounds still remaining, the New Zealand All Blacks were assured of first place in the competition after their victory over Australia on 19 August, their 21st consecutive home win.
This year, for the first time, each team played the others three times, instead of twice, as had been the case previously. This was the result of a new television deal between SANZAR, the consortium of the three countries' rugby federations that organises the tournament, and broadcasters in the SANZAR countries and the United Kingdom. As a result, the duration of the competition was extended and it ran from 8 July to 9 September.
The All Blacks won all three matches against Australia, thus retaining the Bledisloe Cup. They also won two of their three matches against South Africa, thereby winning the Freedom Cup for the first time. Australia regained the Mandela Challenge Plate after winning their two home tests against South Africa.
As in past competitions, points were earned as follows:
- 4 points for a win
- 2 points for a draw
- 0 points for a loss
- 1 bonus point for scoring 4 tries or more, win or lose
- 1 bonus point for a loss by 7 points or less
At the end of 2005, the Wallabies looked to be in decline after having just ended an all-time record Test losing streak of seven. The streak led to the sacking of coach Eddie Jones and his replacement by John Connolly. The 2006 mid-year Tests saw improvement with two wins over England and a win over Ireland. Ireland's captain Brian O'Driscoll – who played against both the Wallabies and All Blacks in Ireland's mid-year Tests – was more impressed by the Wallabies, and tipped them as favourites over the All Blacks.
Going into the competition, the All Blacks, notwithstanding O'Driscoll's assessment, were the clear favourites as the top-ranked team in the world, coming off a year in 2005 in which they only lost one Test (their away fixture against South Africa in the 2005 Tri Nations) and an undefeated run through the 2006 mid-year Tests. However, All Blacks coach Graham Henry used the mid-year Tests to experiment with his squad. They had to come back in the last 20 minutes to win their first Test against Ireland, and had to survive a last-minute push by Argentina at Vélez Sársfield. Despite these close victories amidst much New Zealand complacency, the All Blacks possessed a strong, co-ordinated forward pack, quality playmakers, explosive backs and blistering pace out wide. Their most important asset was arguably their depth in all positions.
Before the first test, Australian television channel, the Seven Network, aired an advertisement where the All Blacks performed the Ka Mate haka with digitally inserted handbags, a reference to an incident where Tana Umaga hit a Hurricane team-mate over the head with a woman's handbag, breaking her cellular phone. This advertisement was seen by some as offensive to both Maori and the All Blacks. The All Blacks performed the new Kapa o Pango haka instead of the Ka Mate in Christchurch for the first time against Australia. Some observers found gestures used in this haka to be offensive.
Of the three teams in the competition, the Springboks entered with the most questions. The selection policy of coach Jake White was controversial in 2005, with White choosing to primarily stay with veterans of South Africa's victorious 2004 Tri Nations squad. His choices eventually panned out, with the Boks only narrowly losing out to the All Blacks in the 2005 Tri Nations.
White largely stayed with his veterans in the 2006 mid-year Tests, which led to even more controversy among Boks supporters. In the meantime, several key Boks players were unavailable during the mid-year Tests due to injury, among them André Pretorius and Bakkies Botha. The Boks won two Tests over Scotland, but suffered a huge blow in the second Test when 2004 World Player of the Year Schalk Burger suffered a career-threatening neck injury. Recent articles indicated that Schalk Burger had a successful operation to his neck and he may play again next year. They went on to lose to France at Newlands, their first home loss since 2003. In that Test, they lost two key backs, Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana, to rib injuries. De Villiers was initially expected to be out for the entire Tri Nations, but Habana recovered in time for the series opener. (In the end, de Villiers would return for South Africa's home leg of the series.) As for other players, Pretorius would be out for at least the first two Boks matches, while Botha was out for the entire series. Partly due to the injuries, White named four newcomers to his Tri Nations squad.
During the lead-in to the Tri Nations, White also caused considerable controversy by publicly seeking an extension to his contract through 2009, even after the loss to France. Also, he was heavily criticised for his refusal to select flanker Luke Watson, arguably the country's form player, even after the loss of Burger. The criticism became more intense after the Boks' hammering in their Tri Nations opener.
Fixtures and results
Kickoff times are local
|Tries: Mealamu (2) 28' c, 35' c
McCaw 49' c
Toeava 78' m
Con: Carter (3)
Pen: Carter (2) 47', 54'
|Tries: Tuqiri 16' c
Fava 51' m
|Tries: Paul 16' c
Holmes 25' c
Giteau (2) 38' c, 75' m
Latham 65' c
Chisholm 80+4' c
Con: Mortlock (5)
Pen: Mortlock (2) 21', 32'
Drop: Larkham 5'
|New Zealand||35–17||South Africa|
|Tries: Weepu 40+6' c
McCaw 80+9' c
Con: Carter (2)
Pen: Carter (7) 5', 23', 28', 35', 50', 59', 80+8'
|Tries: du Preez 1' c
Paulse 71' c
Con: Montgomery (2)
Pen: Montgomery 80+2'
|Pen: Mortlock (3) 8', 36', 60'||Try: Rokocoko 10' c
Pen: Carter 17'
Drop: Carter 58'
- All Blacks retain Bledisloe Cup
|Tries: Gerrard 33' c
Rogers 78' c
Con: Mortlock (2)
Pen: Mortlock (2) 11', 66'
|Tries: Fourie 56' c
Montgomery 69' m
Pen: James (2) 47', 50'
|Tries: Eaton 36' m
Jack 53' c
McAlister 68' c
Con: Carter (2)
Pen: Carter (5) 6', 20', 46', 51', 79'
|Tries: Tuqiri (2) 25' c, 71' c
Elsom 39' c
Con: Mortlock (3)
Pen: Mortlock (2) 3', 15'
|South Africa||26–45||New Zealand|
|Tries: du Preez 10' m
Fourie (2) 63' m, 70' c
Pen: Montgomery (2) 1', 48'
|Tries: Tialata 36' c
McAlister 45' c
Sivivatu 55' m
Muliaina 57' c
Gear 75' c
Con: Carter (4)
Pen: Carter (4) 6', 21', 40+6', 43'
|South Africa||21–20||New Zealand|
|Tries: Habana 24' c
Wannenburg 53' m
Pen: Pretorius (3) 6', 17', 78'
|Tries: Carter 20' c
Rokocoko 66' c
Con: Carter (2)
Pen: Carter (2) 10', 40'
|Tries: du Preez 57' c
Paulse 71' m
Pen: Pretorius (3) 37', 42', 48'
Drop: Pretorius 53'
|Try: Larkham 44' c
Pen: Mortlock (3) 17', 60', 62'
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|Rugby union schedule for 2006|
|Celtic League||Mid Year tests||Celtic League|
|H. Cup||Six Nations Championship||Heineken Cup||H. Cup||H. Cup|
|Guinness Premiership||Guinness Premiership|
|Top 14||Top 14|
|Super 14||Tri Nations|
|World Sevens Series||Sevens|
|Powergen Cup||North America 4||North America 4||End of year tests|
|GFI Hong Kong Tens||U21 World C'ship||Air New Zealand Cup|
|Commonwealth Sevens||Pacific Rugby Cup||Churchill Cup||Australian Provincial C'ship|
|European Challenge Cup||Pacific Five Nations||Currie Cup|
|2007 Rugby World Cup qualifying|