After leading well into the final quarter of the match, Australia conceded three tries to South Africa in the final ten minutes to suffer a humbling defeat. It had been a good game up until then, with both sides defending strongly and each finding points difficult to come by. The difference seemed to be the impact of the Springbok reserves, and lack thereof of the Wallaby replacements.
Pat Lambie proved inspirational upon his introduction around the hour mark, guiding his team through multiple phases before calmly slotting a drop goal to edge his team in front. No less impressive was Schalk Burger, who turned back the page with a fierce 20-odd minutes reminiscent of his glory days. He had replaced Oupa Mohoje, who thoroughly vindicated his selection with a committed performance. Jean de Villiers had been strong throughout but took it a step further to score twice and secure the bonus point at the final whistle.
It’s hard to say what went wrong for the Wallabies, who were in it right until the end. Perhaps it was the accumulation of tackles from phase after phase of Springbok attack, but the mental fatigue engulfed them with frightening rapidity after Lambie’s kick. Defenders either fell off tackles or were caught out, and multiple turnovers were surrendered with ball in hand. It must have come as an awful shock to Ewen McKenzie.
The South Africans will take great heart from the result and will be desperate to upset the All Blacks in Johannesburg, though the Championship itself is now out of reach. Lambie and Burger, among others, will give Heyneke Meyer food for thought in the selection department, though there will be concern for Duane Vermeulen who came off with a rib injury.
Australia will have to regroup quickly as they head to Mendoza to face the Pumas, who will be hurting from some injuries but remain dangerous at home. Changes could well be coming once again for a tired looking squad that needs a pick-me-up before their final Blesidloe meeting with New Zealand on October 18.
SOUTH AFRICA 28 vs 10 AUSTRALIA
Saturday, September 27, 15:05 GMT, Cape Town
13 mins – M. Coetzee try 5-0
25 mins – B. Foley pen 5-3
26 mins – A. Ashley-Cooper try 5-8
27 mins – B. Foley con 5-10
44 mins – H. Pollard pen 8-10
69 mins – P. Lambie drop 11-10
72 mins – J. de Villiers try 16-10
78 mins – P. Lambie try 21-10
80 mins – J. de Villiers try 26-10
80 mins – P. Lambie con 28-10
W. le Roux; C. Hendricks, J. Serfontein, J. de Villiers (capt.), B. Habana (J.P. Pietersen 27-38, HT); H. Pollard (P. Lambie 59), F. Hougaard (C. Reinach 77); T. Mtawarira (T. Nyakane 70), A. Strauss (B. du Plessis 59), J. du Plessis (M. van der Merwe 65); E. Etzebeth, V. Matfield; M. Coetzee, T. Mohoje (S. Burger 54), D. Vermeulen (B. Botha 62).
I. Folau; A. Ashley-Cooper, T. Kuridrani, M. To’omua (K. Beale 54), J. Tomane (R. Horne 65); B. Foley, N. Phipps; J. Slipper (B. Robinson 65), S. Fainga’a (J. Hanson 62), S. Kepu (B. Alexander 70); S. Carter, R. Simmons (J. Horwill HT); S. Fardy, M. Hooper (capt.), B. McCalman (S. Higginbotham 59).
Referee: N. Owens (WRU)
Assistants: W. Barnes (RFU) & M. Raynal (FFR)
TMO: G. Hughes (RFU)