South Africa will have to put their Tri-Nations champagne on ice for a little longer after succumbing 21-6 to the Wallabies on Saturday.
South Africa will have to put their Tri-Nations champagne on ice for a little longer after succumbing to a 21-6 defeat to a much-improved Wallaby side in Brisbane on Saturday.
So much has been said and written about how good the current Springbok side is, but they met their match at the Suncorp Stadium and few would deny that Australia deserved their victory.
The Wallabies' two-tries-to-nil win means that the Tri-Nations is still far from decided as the Springboks must now travel to Hamilton in search of the two points they need to secure the trophy.
Robbie Deans and his team have come in for endless stick in recent weeks but they silenced their critics with a huge improvement at both the rucks and line-outs to provide their backs with plenty of quality possession.
From the very start, South Africa put any suspicions that would 'play it safe' to bed as they matched Australia's eagerness to spread the ball around, but the home side produced far more on attack. Three times the Wallabies were denied a try in the act of scoring by a last-gasp tackle.
Was a deviation from the kick-and chase game that worked so well in the Republic the right call for the Boks? While it produced the goods last week, the visitors only seriously threatened the Wallaby try-line on a handful of occasions.
Whether the Springboks' choice of tactics were appropriate on the night will be matter for debate, but it certainly produced an entertaining game of rugby, so we won't complain.
While the Wallaby backs provided all their team's points, the gold-clad pack laid the platform for victory by matching the Springboks' physicality at the breakdown.
While South Africa's scrum produced a better display than a week ago, for the most part it the Aussies had the upper hand when asked to crouch and engage.
A high-paced game got off to an intense start, but unlike their previous Tri-Nations matches this year, the Springboks were unable to build a lead as the Wallaby defence stood up to the early blitz.
Matt Giteau had given Australia a 6-0 lead from two penalties when MornÃ© Steyn slotted a drop goal on the half-hour mark.
But it was clear that Australia were going to match their visitors in the contact situations and as the Wallabies grew in confidence, they started asking more and more questions of the Springboks, significantly actually competing at line-out time, unlike earlier in the game.
Not that Victor Matfield and co. were given a huge headache at the set piece, but the best line-out in the world were not able to dominate their hosts in the fashion they did in the two previous encounters.
Giteau replied in kind to Steyn's drop a few minutes later (from a movement started on solid line-out possession) to restore the gap only for Steyn to find the mark form the kicking tee on 37 minutes.
The first half might have been tryless but it wasn't for lack of effort from both sides – Australia were denied a try by a brilliant tackle from Bryan Habana on Lachie Turner above the whitewash while Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow had a try disallowed for a forward pass with half time beckoning.
The threat for the home side was coming from South Africa's midfield with Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie twice combining to break through.
The teams headed for the changing room with the hosts 9-6 up and Habana off the field injured.
Twice Australia came within inches of scoring in the third quarter as they began to assert themselves, only to be denied by brilliant tackles in the final inches (Du Preez ripping the ball from Will Genia's hands and Fourie bumping Giteau into touch in the corner).
Australia finally broke the deadlock when Adam Ashley-Cooper ran a great angle on Berrick Barnes' outside to slice through the Bok midfield.
Trailing by ten points the South Africans were forced to kick more and more, but with Habana nowhere to be seen the effectiveness of their chase had disappeared.
It was all Wallabies in the final ten minutes as the Springboks began to run out of options on attack and were succumbing to the pressure on defence and in the scrums.
James O'Connor provided the icing on the cake when Rocky Elsom blocked a Du Preez clearance and young flyer pounced on the loose ball to seal the win.
Man of the match: The home pack deserve a collective pat on the back for their engagement, illustrated by a couple of crunching tackles from Tatafu Polota-Nau – if he had lasted more than half an hour, he would have been in the running for our gong. But we'll give the award to Berrick Barnes, whose return made a huge difference to the Wallaby back-line with the extra options he provides to Giteau. The two regularly swapped places to share the kicking load and Barnes' pass to put Ashley-Cooper clear was class.
Moment of the match: It was pretty much all square until Ashley-Cooper's try gave the home side a ten point lead – they never looked back.
Villain of the match: Not a villain to be seen. This match was a true advertisement for the game as a whole.
Pens: Giteau 2
For South Africa:
Australia: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 George Smith (capt), 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Peter Hynes.
South Africa: 15 Ruan Pienaar, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Frans Steyn .
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)