South Africa bounced back from consecutive defeats on the road with a comprehensive 31-8 victory over Australia in Pretoria on Saturday.
South Africa bounced back from consecutive defeats on the road with a comprehensive 31-8 Rugby Championship victory over Australia at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Springboks led 14-3 at the interval but the Wallabies were lucky not to be much further behind. Two tight calls from the TMO meant the home side did not have the four-try bonus point by half-time, but Heyneke Meyer's men secured a full house of points after the break as Bryan Habana bagged a hat-trick to add to earlier scores from Zane Kirchner and Francois Louw.
Mike Harris touched down in the last quarter for the Wallabies, but the horse had already bolted. Once Kirchner had scored the first try, the visitors never looked like getting back into the contest.
While Bok fans will certainly sleep better after their side showed the most attacking prowess of the Meyer era so far, their enthusiasm should be held in check by the fact that this was not Australia's strongest team by any stretch of the imagination (and Robbie Deans' squad looks to have been even further depleted by injuries as they head to Argentina after Adam Ashley-Cooper was taken from the field on a stretcher).
The first quarter ended scoreless after Berrick Barnes missed an early chance to open the scoring before his opposite number Johan Goosen also failed with his only two shots at goal.
But the Boks showed their positive intentions by turning down another penalty – won thanks to an impressive rolling maul – in the 21st minute, opting rather for an attacking line-out. The decision paid off as, after a few phases of pressure, Zirchner did well to twist and turn his way over for the first try.
Ruan Pienaar took over the kicking duties and provided the extra two points from the tee but Goosen showed why he was chosen at ten with a scintillating line-break that took him to within inches of the line. The TMO confirmed that he was short of his first Test try, but Bok fans would have nevertheless been chuffed to see their fly-half attacking with ball in hand.
A well-taken try from short range from Habana and another conversion from Pienaar doubled the lead as the Wallabies struggled to contain their hosts.
The Wallabies got on the scoreboard as the half drew to a close when Kurtley Beale split the uprights but the visitors where lucky not to go further behind when Kirchner bolted into the same corner as his earlier score. The full-back's heal clipped the touchline though thanks to a try-saving tackle from Ashley-Cooper which left the Wallaby centre out cold.
Australia's woes, especially at the breakdown, continued after the break and the visitors were reduced to fourteen men in the 53rd minute when James Slipper was sent to the bin for his transgressions on the deck.
His absence proved to be extremely costly for the tourists with the Boks adding two more tries while he watched from the sidelines.
Louw, who was excellent once again, was rewarded for his efforts as he scored from the back of a rolling maul.
Six minutes later Habana added his second after some quick thinking from the speedster, who took a quick throw-in to hooker Adriaan Strauss, who also had clarity of mind when he pulled in the defenders and offloaded to the flyer.
Harris scored in the right hand corner as the Wallabies refused to go down quietly but Habana had the last say when he raced home for his third touchdown after Louw took a gap and sent the winger on his way to his 46th Test try in the 79th minute.
Man of the Match: There were handful of candidates in green with the home loose trio doing very well, but you can't look further than the hat-trick hero Bryan Habana, who seems to have found his mojo again and had the fans at his former home ground out of their seats.
Moment of the match: It might not have come from a classic bolt down the touchline, but Habana's first try was the product of the Boks' willingness to keep the ball moving (and the veteran wings knack for finding gap). It put the hosts 14-0 up and the Wallabies looked beaten for all money.
Villian of the match: No nasty stuff to report
For South Africa:
Tries: Kirchner, Habana 3, Louw
Con: Pienaar 3
Yellow card: Slipper (53rd min – ruck infringements)
South African: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Mike Harris 22 Anthony Fainga'a.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
By Ross Hastie at Loftus Versfeld