The Wallabies have kicked off their Rugby Championship campaign with a disappointing 35-17 loss to South Africa in Johannesburg. The Wallabies were in with a chance at 14-10 at half time and should have been in front but for two bombed tries before a poor second half display including a yellow card to Taniela Tupou allowed the Springboks to run away with it with a two try performance from man of the match Herschel Jantjies instrumental in the win.
The opening ten minutes were like a boxing match with both teams feeling each other out before the Springboks landed the first blow with a try to new scrum half Herschel Jantjies after winger S’busio Nkosi found space down the right wing.
The Springboks rush defence was giving the Wallabies backline little room to move with the forwards having to roll up the sleeves and get stuck in with debutant Isi Naisirani getting heavily involved as they were having to adjust their attacking patterns.
Bernard Foley responded with a penalty goal after 15 minutes and the Wallabies thought they had gone in front after Samu Kerevi found space in the midfield deep in his own half but as he came to the last line of defence, he hesitated in getting the ball away to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto who ran to the try line but was rightly called back for a forward pass.
South Africa went down to 14 men after Andre Esterhuizen copped a yellow card for collecting Tom Banks high but they weren’t deterred and went further in front at 14-3 with Lood de Jager eventually scoring after another good piece of work from Pieter-Steph du Toit and Herschel Jantjies down the left wing as he collected a kick ahead of Dane Haylett-Petty to get them in field position.
The Wallabies hit back just before the 30–minute mark as they were able to take advantage of an offside penalty with the initial plan going to the rolling maul before the backs got involved as the Springboks defense were numbering up on Foley and Kervei to allow the space out wide before Dane Haylett-Petty scored and Foley’s conversion made it 14-10.
Haylett-Petty should have had his second just minutes later and would probably want his time over again as he swooped on a Foley kick through and only had to pick it up and fall over the line but knocked on with no defenders in sight.
They were again handed another golden chance to score before half time with an attacking five-metre scrum off a penalty but a mix up at the back saw Naisirani lose his footing to put Nic White under pressure and he was penalised for holding on to leave it 14-10 at the break with the Wallabies rueing those two bombed tries that would have given them a handy lead in a venue they had not won at in 56 years.
The Wallabies scrum had been pretty good throughout but the replacement of the two props saw two early penalties against them early in the second half. The tactical substitute of Kepu for Tupou and the other injury enforced after James Slipper copped an accidental knee to the head that saw Harry Johnson-Holmes make his debut.
Tupou made his mark but for the wrong reason as he was given a yellow card for a late clean out on Elstadt to round out an interesting week in Johannesburg for him and undo the good work of Rory Arnold who disrupted the Sringboks maul after an earlier penalty with the Wallabies already on the back foot in the second half.
The Springboks went to the scrum with the Wallabies having only seven in the scrum and the weight of possession was too much and Nkosi went over in the right corner and Jantjies conversion made it an 11-point margin.
Things went from bad to worse as the Springboks went further in front with another try to Herschel Jantjies to seal the game after 63 minutes. Haylett-Petty got caught up in a ruck and Jantjies used his awareness and only needed the smallest space down the right wing to claim his second of the match as the margin extended to 17.
There was a rare attacking chance with ten minutes remaining with replacement Kurtley Beale making an impact in finding space right down the middle and got a brilliant offload away to Foley and he converted his own try to make the score line a respectable 28-17.
But the Springboks had one more try in them after the final hooter as replacement scum half Cobus Reinach dived over to claim the bonus point to complete the 18 point win and continue the misery in Johannesburg for the Wallabies.
There was a mixed bag of performances across the board with Samu Kerevi a shining light in a beaten team. Nic White looked good after a four year absence from the Wallaby jersey and the late impact from Kurtley Beale can’t be overlooked ahead of the Argentina Test next week in Brisbane.
There might be a few sweating on the selection panels decision including Dane Haylett-Petty after an uncharacteristically below par game. He did score a try but also bombed one and was caught out for Jantjies’ second try and never really recovered after the bombed try.
The Game Changer
The second half. The Wallabies were in a with a chance at 14-10 at the break but then it all unraveled starting with Tupou’s yellow card as the Springboks added 19 points and held the Wallabies to seven and spending the majority of the half deep in their own end.
The G&GR MOTM
Herschel Jantjies. 2 tries on debut for the scrum half and ran the backline well Elton Jantjies.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Haylett-Petty, Foley
Conversions: Foley 2
Tries: H Jantjies 2, de Jager, Nkosi, Reinach
Conversions: E Jantjies 5
20 mins – Esterhuizen (Springboks) – Yellow
54 mins – Tupou (Wallabies) – Yellow