Finally, we get to our next series of Great Wallaby Try Analysis posts. Appropriately, this week we look at a try against the mighty Springboks. We travel back to the year 2000, the age of Rod McQueen, as the Wallabies travelled to Durban to take on the Boks in a match they needed to win to claim the Tri Nations trophy. Remembering just three weeks earlier John Eales had kicked an after siren penalty to secure a Wallaby victory over New Zealand in Wellington. So could the Wallabies claim another away win?
Let’s get to it. With just a couple of minutes left in the first half, the game is delicately poised at 6-3 to the Wallabies thanks to a couple of Stirling Mortlock penalties and one by Braam Van Straaten. The Wallabies are in possession from phase play ball forty metres out from the try line. From there we get the game’s only try…
So the footage starts from ruck ball (perhaps collapsed maul?) as Mark Connors (6) picks up and clears to George Gregan (9). Surrounding Wallabies include David Giffen (4) and Jim Williams (8), whilst Fletcher Dyson (3) and replacement hooker Jeremy Paul (22) loiter nearby. John Eales (5) and Richard Harry (1) are beyond the ball having cleared out.
Gregan has the ball and, after a couple of steps backwards and across, delivers a poor pass to his fly half Steve Larkham (10), who picks it up brilliantly off his toes. The pass has given the Bok defenders time however, with Corne Krige (7) moving up on the inside and putting pay to the steadying run by Jason Little (12). Werner Swanepoel (9) is there as well to put a little hit on.
Somehow Connors and David Wilson (7), both offside by today’s rules, manage to clear out and provide decent clean ball for Gregan. George has to avoid some Bok legs and decides to have a skirt down the blind. His options appear limited but in a selfless act he off loads to a, somewhat flat-footed, Daniel Herbert (13). Meanwhile, Gregan is smashed by who I can only guess is Andre Venter (4). Venter’s big tackle is impressive, however what it does is provide a hole in the defensive line, as Rassie Erasmus (6) runs forward to seemingly block off a potential pass from Herbert.
As Herbert sets off, Krige is slow to cover from the previous ruck relying on his outside man Mark Andrews (5) and Van Straaten (10) to cover from the back. As it turns out Van Straaten puts in an awful tackle attempt as Herbert straightens strongly (as he did throughout his career), all the time carrying the ball in two hands. And doesn’t he do it well? I’ve talked about this skill in the previous analysis and spoken of its benefits. For Herbert to do it so strongly, within traffic, is close to the most impressive aspect of this try.
Herbert has plenty of support, most noticeably Chris Latham (15) just off his shoulder. Latham was a master at running this line and knew so well how to time his run to burst on to the ball when needed. As it is Latho doesn’t get the ball just yet.
Herbert is taken down by a Krige tackle and presents the ball beautifully (thanks to his two hand carry). Jim Williams arrives and before he can touch the ball is tackled from behind by big Robbie Kempson (1). Kempson’s opposite number Richard Harry then picks up the ball beautifully, spinning out of the tackle/clear out by Mark Andrews and scoots off down the blind. This time Paul, Joe Roff (11) and Latho are all running in support on Harry’s left.
Harry is hit well by a strong Chester Williams (14) tackle with Krige (7) once again back in support. Harry’s pass over the top is the right option but possibly line ball in direction. Note that there are still six Bok defenders still in play (not including Chester) when Paul receives the pass. Paul had to change angles to take the pass, and he props and runs back in-field, into the charge of the cover defence.
Krige is there again to tackle Paul around the shoe laces, as Erasmus attempts to cover the pass. Somehow, in the most impressive aspect of this try, Paul delivers a stunning ball as he’s falling, around the outstretched Rassie hands, and to Latham.
And still there’s work to do. Latham battles the cover of Thinus Delport (15) and Chester again yet, as we know he does, relies on his strength to get him across the line. I probably would have preferred he went in lower, but still a solid finish and a crucial try.
Australia would go to the break 13-3 up and full of beans. However the Boks fought back, through the boot of Van Straaten and hold the lead with minutes to go. In an almost replica of the earlier match against the All Blacks, the Wallabies were awarded a penalty out wide and about 30ms out. Up would step Stirling Mortlock, injured at the time of the Eales kick v the Kiwis, and boot the penalty that would secure the game and the trophy.
The test was also significant as it was the last Wallaby game for 1999 World Cup heroes Richard Harry, David Wilson and Jason Little. Stirling Mortlock would finish the domestic test season having scored 122 points in the first seven tests of the season. A stat made even more impressive by the fact that he didn’t score any points in the first test of the season and that five of those tests were against powerhouses New Zealand and South Africa.
In summary, my try highlights:
- Great clean out work by Wallaby forwards (although the Bok pack doesn’t seem to be committing to the breakdown).
- Strong running and ball work, in traffic by Dan Herbert.
- Great awareness and skill by loose head prop Richard Harry.
- Wonderful skills by Jeremy Paul
- Never say die attitude by Bok flanker Corne Krige.
South Africa v Australia
Absa Stadium, Durban. 26th August, 2000.
Wallabies: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Stirling Mortlock, 13 Daniel Herbert, 12 Jason Little, 11 Joe Roff, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan, 8 Jim Williams, 7 David Wilson, 6 Mark Connors, 5 John Eales [c], 4 David Giffin, 3 Fletcher Dyson, 2 Michael Foley, 1 Richard Harry. Replacements: Ben Tune, Rod Kafer, Toutai Kefu, Matt Cockbain, Glenn Panoho, Jeremy Paul.
Springboks: 15 Thinus Delport, 14 Chester Williams, 13 Grant Esterhuizen, 12 Robbie Fleck, 11 Breyton Paulse, 10 Braam Van Straaten, 9 Werner Swanepoel, 8 Andre Vos [c], 7 Corne Krige, 6 Rassie Erasmus, 5 Mark Andrews, 4 Andre Venter, 3 Cobus Visagie, 2 Charl Marais, 1 Robbie Kempson. Replacements: Albert Van Den Bergh, Ollie Le Roux, John Smit, Warren Brosnihan.
Australia 19 (Chris Latham try; Stirling Mortlock conv, 4 pg) defeated South Africa 18 (Braam Van Straaten 6 pg)