Whilst we Wallaby fans have spent two weeks wringing our collective hands and furrowing our collective brows at our team’s most recent performance, a 50 point thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks, Springbok fans haven’t necessarily been jumping for glee over their own team’s performances. Two tight wins over the Pumas was below the standard set by the proud South African fans. But wins are wins and Australia entered this test desperate for them. Ewen McKenzie has yet to experience victory over the Boks in Rugby Championship Rugby and Perth would prove to be another hoodoo broken for Link as the Wallabies fought hard to win 24-23.
The intent of the Wallabies was evident from the kick off where a short kick was reclaimed by a flying Israel Folau. The pressure was maintained through a Matt Toomua grubber and. from the resultant 5m line-out, the Aussies were able to maintain possession with Folau soon to score in only the 2nd minute of the game.
Whilst the Wallabies maintained their game plan of getting the ball wide and recycling quickly, the South Africans relied more on a ball-in-air game. Both Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar more often than not opted to put the ball on their boot and kick it high.
When South Africa did hold on to the ball, and they didn’t do it much, they scored through 7s guru Cornall Hendricks as they took advantage of some overly aggressive Australian defence.
After their 13th minute try, it was only penalty goals for the rest of the first half as Foley and Steyn battled (bootled?) to give their team the ascendancy. A 14-11 half time ascendancy to the visitors seemed more a result of some (all too common) ill-disciplined Wallaby play rather than any real attacking intent. The Wallabies played with tremendous intent and inventiveness for the first half, but that final finishing finesse failed them too often.
In the second half South Africa began to play with the ball a little more, whilst the Wallabies lost their way. Mistakes and penalties cost them repeatedly as Steyn kicked three penalties back to back (to back) to take the score to 23-14 with just over ten minutes to go.
The injection of some fresh legs for the Wallabies seemed serve as a trigger to how they played in the first half and the intensity rose. Bok centurion Bryan Habana was sin binned for a high tackle on Adam Ashley Cooper and all eyes were on whether Australia could take advantage of the extra man, as they weren’t previously in Auckland. It looked like they had when Pek Cowan, on for James Slipper, powered for what seemed the crucial try. However it was disallowed with Rob Simmons having taken out a defender past the ruck. A Foley penalty in the 70th minute ensure the gap was less than a converted try and the Aussies continued to ramp up their game.
As the pressure mounted, and Australia continued to attack the Springbok line, it looked as though South Africa had saved the day through a crucial Bismarck du Plessis turnover which saw Australia penalised. However the kick for touch would not find it, and Australia was able to counter attack and after a string of delightful off loads Rob Horne received the ball from a dominant Tevita Kuridrani. Horne was able to finish strongly for the try that would bring the deficit back to just one point.
Then up would step one Bernard Foley. Fresh from his Super Rugby heroics, Foley was able to thread the conversion through the posts to take the lead with only a minute to go on the clock. The Wallabies would hold on to the ball and claim their first win of the 2014 Rugby Championship.
The Game Changer
Hate to say it for someone who has had such a remarkable career, but the Habana yellow sullied his 100th test. The decision may have been debatable, but this moment gave Australia the kick on it needed to continue its attacking focus that would see them through to a last minute victory.
The G&GR MOTM
Duane Vermeulen was monstrous for the Boks and probably would have had the award if the Boks held on to win. For Australia Sam Carter was industrious in his 60 minutes, and James Hanson impressive in his run on debut, however it was the returning Tevita Kuridrani who made the biggest positive impact on this game. Kuridrani made ground every touch of the ball and was instrumental in the match winning try.
Foley and Phipps, also back into the starting side replacing Kurtley Beale and Nick White, both were critical to the higher paced game plan. Foley stood flat and kept the backline moving, whilst Phipps clearance was crisp and quick. However both made crucial errors at critical times. An improvement on recent combinations, but still note the dominant display we need from our Wallaby halves.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Folau (2nd minute), Horne (78th)
Conversions: Foley (79th)
Penalties: Foley (17th, 28th, 42nd, 70th)
Tries: Hendricks (13th minute)
Penalties: Steyn (7th, 19th, 25th, 45th, 49th, 63rd)
Cards & citings
Bryan Habana (66th minute – high tackle)