The three leading southern hemisphere national teams proved on Saturday that they remain superior to their northern counterparts.

Second-half tries by Morne Steyn and new captain Jean de Villiers broke open an attritional match to give South Africa a 22-17 win over England at Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday. Steyn squeezed over early in the second half to put the Springboks ahead 11-6, their first lead of the match.

De Villiers finished an overlap in the same right corner 12 minutes later to send South Africa to victory in its opening test under coach Heyneke Meyer. England led 3-0 and 6-3 early on through flyhalf Owen Farrell, but South Africa's powerful ball-carriers wore down a brave defense in the second half to hand coach Stuart Lancaster his second defeat in six tests in charge.

England wing Ben Foden scored in the final act with the result already settled, as South Africa's dominance for most of the second 40 proved decisive in the first of a three-test series.

Steyn's 48th-minute try pushed South Africa ahead after it struggled to break down England's gutsy rearguard. De Villiers' score gave the Boks a 16-6 advantage, which was too much for England to claw back despite Farrell's kicking and Foden's late diving try in the right corner at the final whistle.

Aussies outlast Wales

Will Genia was back at his dangerous best on Saturday, inspiring Australia to a 27-19 win over Six Nations champion Wales only four days after a shock loss to Scotland.

The Australian scrumhalf took control of the match with two pivotal plays in the second half, darting over for a try seconds after halftime and then sending center Pat McCabe across in the 67th minute to snuff out a Welsh resurgence after the visitors clawed back to 20-19 from a 14-point deficit.

No. 2-ranked Australia scored three tries and conceded one, with Leigh Halfpenny contributing 14 points for the Welsh via four penalties and a conversion.

Wales captain Sam Warburton said his team didn't adapt quickly enough to the faster pace of the southern hemisphere game, in their first test since March, but he was proud of the second-half comeback.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans expected both teams to improve before the second test in Melbourne next week, particularly with Wales desperate to end a 43-year drought Down Under and break a five-match losing streak to the Australians.

"I imagine it'll be edge-of-the-seat stuff," Deans said. "We know what's going to come the other way - it's do or die next week."

NZ trounces Ireland

In Auckland, winger Julian Savea scored three tries on his debut as New Zealand beat Ireland 42-10 on Saturday in its first test since winning last year's Rugby World Cup.

The 21-year-old Savea touched down twice in the first half and once in the second, becoming the first All Black to score a hat trick against Ireland, as New Zealand ushered in the era of new head coach Steve Hansen with a win.