The Wallabies’ winless streak at Loftus continued when they went down 31-8 to a rampaging Springboks side.
Their injury curse struck again and combined with little ball meant they were in for a long night as they watched Springboks’ winger Bryan Habana score a hat-trick on the night.
The match didn’t start well for the Wallabies with Scott Higginbotham ruled out during the warm-up with a back injury that meant a reshuffle to the reserve bench with Mike Harris coming into the 22.
There were some early nerves for the kickers as both Berrick Barnes and Johan Goosen missed their opening shots at penalty goal in the first eight minutes.
New flyhalf Kurtley Beale looked impressive and was starting to get front-foot ball, but the Wallabies weren’t able to capitalise on their field position and were unable to get inside South Africa’s 22.
It was a scoreless opening 20 minutes but then the Springboks opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a nicely worked try to fullback Zane Kirchner in the right corner after declining the earlier shot at penalty.
That try sparked the home side into action and they went close to scoring again when Johan Goosen fooled everyone and made a linebreak that looked a certain try. Alain Rolland referred it to the TMO and it was decided that it was somehow a ‘double movement’.
They weren’t to be denied, however, as the Boks started to dominate the possession leaving the Wallabies to make plenty of tackles. Winger Bryan Habana finished a move that he started to put the Boks out to a lead of 14 to nil.
It took until the 35th minute for the Wallabies to get on the board with Beale taking over the kicking duties from Berrick Barnes to reduce the margin to 11.
Just before the break the South Africans were awarded a dubious penalty with Dom Shipperley alleged to have bloked Kirchner contesting a kick, but the Wallabies breathed a sigh of relief as Pienaaar’s kick hit the upright.
In a huge blow just on half time, Adam Ashley-Cooper was knocked out attempting to stop Kirchner from adding to the home side’s score. His commitment saved the day but he was stretchered from the field which saw Mike Harris come on along side Anthony Faingaa who was already filling in for Berrick Barnes after coming on earlier for Pat McCabe who made a visit to the blood bin.
As the half progressed it was becoming increasingly difficult for both sides to finish off a scrum with Rolland struggling to get both side to co operate. He was having a poor game all round with many infringements allowed to go unpunished especially around the ruck.
The start of the second half saw the Wallabies unfortunately blow a great chance to score their opening try as halfback Nick Phipps knocked on at the back of a ruck to the relief of the South Africans.
The next chance the Wallabies had with the ball ended disastrously with Dom Shipperley getting caught on his own 22 right in front and from the resulting penalty the Boks received yet another penalty and the double whammy yellow card to James Slipper who had just come on.
The man advantage proved too much for the Wallabies and Francois Louw rolled off the rolling maul and dived over to increase the lead to 16 points after 55 minutes.
Things were going from bad to worse as the medical staff were starting to earn their pay as Samo left the field with a shoulder problem to add to injury concerns to Digby Ioane’s knee and Tatafu Polota-Nau looking groggy after another head knock.
Bryan Habana then rubbed salt into the wound and once again finished off a move he started after a quick lineout on his own side of halfway and ran virtually untouched under the posts to all but seal the game with 20 minutes remaining.
The Wallabies then showed they would fight to the end by scoring their first try of the night to Mike Harris in the right corner after nice lead up work from Kurtley Beale who was one of the best in a beaten side.
The game then decended into farcical scenes with 10 minutes remaining with the Wallabies only left with 14 men after the increasing injury toll and substitution count had been exhausted. A discussion between Rolland and the Wallabies’ bench meant that Saia Faingaa could not come on and it was left to Benn Robinson, who had also been replaced earlier, to throw the ball into the lineout.
Habana then secured his hat-trick with only minutes remaining to cap a great night for himself.
The Wallabies will now head to Argentina with much to think about, particularly who is left to play as #TeamRehab is expected to grow significantly.
Springboks 31 – Habana 3, Kirchner, Louw tries; Pienaar 3 cons def Wallabies 8 – Harris try; Beale pen goal.