Coach Dave Rennie paid tribute to his forwards Saturday after the Wallabies shattered South Africa’s hopes of snapping a nine-year winless streak on Australian soil with a bruising 25-17 Rugby Championship win in Adelaide.
The home team took a 10-3 lead into the break, soaking up huge pressure, before piling on 15 points in the second half to once more deny the Springboks, who have not tasted victory in Australia since 2013, now spanning eight Tests.
They have another chance next week in Sydney.
Two tries from Fraser McReight and one by the outstanding Marika Koroibete helped seal victory for Australia who bounced back from a shock 48-17 thumping by Argentina in San Juan this month.
The win gave Rennie breathing space after a stuttering year, overseeing three wins and three defeats in their build-up to next year’s World Cup.
“Disappointed with the finish, but rapt with the win,” he said.
“We had a lot more experienced guys back out on the park. Our scrum was excellent today -– and that is really important against South Africa.”
The Wallabies started slowly in every Test this season, finding themselves chasing the game. They spoke before the match about coming out with guns blazing and lived up to expectations, with a try in the opening minute.
They won the ball from their own kickoff and, on the front foot, strung together several phases before flanker McReight barged over and Noah Lolesio slotted an easy conversion.
“We’re very proud of the effort we showed today,” said Australia captain James Slipper. “We started the game well and that put us in a good position. There were parts of that game where we had to show a lot of character, and we did that.”
The lead stretched to 10-0 minutes later after they won a breakdown penalty and Lolesio split the posts again.
The last time South Africa won against the Wallabies in Australia was a 38-12 victory in Brisbane nine years ago.
Among the run of defeats were two brutal ones last year on the Gold Coast (28-26) and Brisbane (30-17) and they quickly steadied the ship, but failed to convert a slew of chances.
“It just didn’t go our way. We camped on their try line for much of the first half but we couldn’t take the opportunities,” said Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi.
“But they played really well today from the get-go, and the game is about small margins — every opportunity they got they took it.”
In front of more than 33,000 fans at a ground more used to hosting cricket, Kolisi’s side exerted big pressure after their slow start, earning a penalty only for Handre Pollard to badly miss.
McReight made a try-saving tackle for the Wallabies in the 17th minute and Pollard fluffed another penalty before he finally found his radar for their first points.
The Wallabies defence was under the gun but it clung on despite Tom Wright being yellow-carded, and Koroibete made an incredible try-saving tackle on Makazole Mapimpi three minutes before the break.
Mapimpi was free in the left corner but as he dived to cross the line Koroibete flew at full tilt to smash the ball out of the winger’s hands.
South Africa started the second stanza with 14 men after Faf de Klerk was controversially sin-binned for clipping fellow scrum-half Nic White on the face.
The Wallabies capitalised with Koroibete finishing a smooth move that started with a break by Wright to put them 15-3 in front.
They were flying and perfectly executed a set-piece 10 minutes later that saw Lolesio burst into space, offloading to McReight who dived over to secure another five points.
Kwagga Smith bagged two tries for the Springboks against the tiring Wallabies in the final five minutes, but it was not enough.