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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Tale of the Tri-Nations
Australia are seeking a third successive Tri-Nations title in 2002 - something no other side has managed in the six years of the tournament to date.
New Zealand appeared on course to do so after romping through the first two series, winning all their four matches in both 1996 and 1997.
But the All Blacks aura was dismantled the following year as they lost every match and South Africa triumphed in the midst of a record-equalling 17-match unbeaten run.
New Zealand regained the ascendency in 1999, even if defeat in their final match in Australia was a pointer to World Cup fortunes for both countries later that year.
Empowered by their World Cup victory, the Wallabies confirmed their status by winning a first Tri-Nations crown in a classic 2000 series, despite losing the 'greatest game ever'.
And they followed it up with another last-minute triumph in the final game a year ago, denying New Zealand victory in another nailbiter in Sydney.
The Tri-Nations came into being hand-in-hand with professionalism in 1996, and the rugby did not disappoint in the competition's inaugural year.
New Zealand opened with a thumping six-try win over Australia in Welllington and never loosened their grip on the tournament.
After both teams enjoyed tight wins over South Africa, the Wallabies looked to have won the reverse fixture in Brisbane before the All Blacks scored 17 unanswered points in the final 10 minutes.
South Africa held on for their first and only victory at home to Australia before New Zealand came from 18-6 down at the break to beat the Springboks 29-18 in Cape Town.
New Zealand maintained their unbeaten run in the tournament with two away victories in the opening matches of the series.
With Carlos Spencer running the show, the All Blacks ran in seven tries on their travels, scoring 35 points to edge out South Africa before a more comfortable win in Melbourne.
Seven more tries followed in a thumping 20-point home victory over the Springboks before New Zealand inflicted another painful double on Australia.
The All Blacks scored more points in a season than any other team but still only managed 11 more than the Springboks, who finished by humiliating Australia in what proved to be Greg Smith's final match in charge.
South Africa not only broke New Zealand's stranglehold but the previously dominant All Blacks became the first, and so far only, team to fail to win a match in the competition, their worst Test season since 1949.
Australia, with Matt Burke scoring 24 points - the most by any individual against the All Blacks - opened with a win but were edged out by a point against South Africa in the first Test to be played in Perth.
The Springboks crossed the Tasman to record their first win in New Zealand since 1981, before Australia followed suit with a scintillating display in Christchurch, only two late Kiwi tries adding respectability to the scoreline.
The boot was on the other foot in Durban where the All Blacks squandered a 23-5 lead with only 15 minutes remaining, allowing South Africa to complete a remarkable clean sweep by beating Australia in the final match.
New Zealand returned to winning ways but it was a far more conservative approach to the one they adopted when they carried all before them in 1997.
The All Blacks shut out South Africa in Dunedin in the opening game and another woeful Springbok performance in Brisbane was confirmation of their decline.
The trusty boot of Andrew Mehrtens carried New Zealand to victory over Australia and with home teams in the ascendency, the decisive result came in Pretoria with an impressive All Blacks victory over South Africa.
With Australia's one point loss in South Africa, New Zealand were assured of overall victory before their final match in Sydney, where they were comprehensively defeated.
This series proved a classic from start to finish and opened with a match most observers regard as the greatest Test ever.
In front of a world record crowd of 109,874 at Stadium Australia, New Zealand raced into a 24-0 lead, saw the Wallabies draw level by half-time and then came from behind to win a sensational match with Jonah Lomu's last-minute try.
South Africa were well beaten in their two away games before the Wallabies and All Blacks met in another nailbiting encounter, an injury-time penalty from captain John Eales sealing a one-point win.
The Springboks prevailed in a remarkable 86-point match against New Zealand in Johannesburg, before Australia gained their first win on South African soil thanks to a Stirling Mortlock penalty with the last kick of the game, and the tournament.
After the fireworks of the previous year, four Tony Brown penalties proved enough for New Zealand to win a disappointing opening game in Cape Town.
Eddie Jones began his regime as Wallabies coach with a defeat in Pretoria, but Australia then recorded their first-ever win in Dunedin to retain the Bledisloe Cup.
They had to rely on a late Matt Burke penalty to snatch a draw with South Africa in Perth, before the All Blacks set up a winner-takes-all finale by beating the Springboks in Auckland.
But for the second year running, Australia's capacity for winning tight matches proved decisive as a last-minute try from Toutai Kefu heaped more misery on New Zealand.
Teams are awarded four points for a win and receive bonus points if they score four or more tries or if they lose by seven points or less.
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