Planet Rugby

Perth painted green and gold

29th August 2009 12:49

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Fourie du Preez try v Australia

Celebrating his 50th: Opening try for number nine Du Preez

They came, they saw, they conquered! South Africa took one step closer to bagging their third Tri-Nations title after beating Australia 32-25 at Subiaco Oval in Perth on Saturday.

The Springboks remain unbeaten in the tournament following their fourth win on the trot, while the Wallabies - after four consecutive defeats - have officially been knocked out of the series.

Australia will look back and rue a poor first half performance that saw the South Africans run in three tries that helped the visitors along to a game-breaking 22-6 half-time lead. The Wallabies came out firing after the break, but the damage had already been done.

It was a balanced outing from the world champions who silenced their critics who labeled them as "boring", by crossing the opposition whitewash four times to end a polished display with a crucial bonus point. They blitzed the Wallabies with a high tempo, high risk approach in the first quarter, then battered them up front and with a solid tactical kicking game in thereafter.

This Perth triumph was arguably the best from the number one ranked side in the world, since they dismantled the men in gold in Johannesburg last year. One feels a replication of this performance in Brisbane or Hamilton in the next fortnight will see the trophy return to South Africa and cap a superb year for a brilliant team.

In fact, had Wallabies winger Lachie Turner not found his way over for a consolation try on the stroke of full-time, South Africa could have recorded their highest winning margin on Australian soil since 1971.

South Africa were simply too quick, too strong, too smart and far more precise and clinical than the home team. By contrast the Wallabies willing game was mistake-ridden, particularly at the key moments.

A solid scrummaging effort - reaping three penalties - was well and truly offset by more turmoil in the line-outs. Three times Australia paid dearly for poor throws to the back within a five minute period early in the second half after a jinking Matt Giteau try had put them back into the contest at 22-13 down.

Turner's converted try at least gave Australia a losing bonus and a hint of respectability to the scoreline, but nothing could hide the fact they were completely outmuscled and outplayed that now puts the Boks nine points clear of New Zealand with two matches each to play.

Giteau, Australia's shining light, finished with a personal haul of 20 points but simply can't be relied upon every time to get his country out of trouble when there are fourteen other players on the field equally able to do the job.

Giteau was getting slow service from Luke Burgess from phase ball and set pieces and struggling for combination with inside center Adam Ashley-Cooper, who was playing his third different position in three Tests to cover for injured midfield regulars Stirling Mortlock and Berrick Barnes.

Australia need a collective team effort, plain and simple - this is something that was clearly missing on the night where the Wallabies were blown away by some clever plays from John Smit's rampant Boks.

The Wallabies were put on the backfoot from the opening whistle, and the Springboks were 12-0 up within nine minutes. Scrum-half Fourie du Preez underlined his class and immense value to South Africa when his side were awarded a free kick after some great interplay between the backs. Du Preez, alert as ever, quick-tapped and smashed through four tacklers to score.

Centre Jaque Fourie then crossed untouched after Giteau was terribly exposed in defence from a midfield scrum. What seemed like the simplest of conversion attempts, was fluffed by Morne Steyn as the ball came bouncing back off the upright.

Giteau also missed two penalty attempts before finally landing one in the 28th minute for a 15-3 deficit., but the Springboks soon further asserted their dominance.

Du Preez launched a huge up-and-under which Turner couldn't control. The ball spat loose to Bryan Habana who cracked on the gas to leave a string of Wallabies players in his wake. Steyn added the extras and even though Giteau banked another three points, their 22-6 half-time lead was an imposing one.

Giteau reduced the margin to nine points with a converted try three minutes after the break. beating four defenders following a quick tap. Whatever hope home fans had of a Wallabies comeback, were quickly dashed when Habana strolled over for his second touchdown of the match.

Habana would have been the most relieved South African on the pitch after spilling the ball just one minute prior to his bonus-point try with the line at his mercy. Steyn made no mistake with the conversion and a penalty seven minutes thereafter. At 32-13 the result was effectively sealed.

Needing three converted tries to win the game and with twenty minutes remaining, Australia - in panic mode - brought on their bench and started to look dangerous when Quade Cooper went on at fly-half and allowed Giteau to move one place wider to inside center.

Giteau then earned a second try in the 75th minute when he straightened the angle of attack after Cooper dragged three defenders across field and gave him an inside ball. Giteau rushed his conversion attempt, and missed as a result.

With time up on the clock and South Africa's replacements on the sideline already giving high-fives for a job well done, Turner managed to sneak in for a try from a standing start to give the hosts some credibility.

The 2009 Tri-Nations trophy is surely now South Africa's to lose.

Man of the match: To single out individuals in a collective effort as impressive as the Boks would be unfair, but the performance of their loose trio, and the physicality and relentless defence of the tight forwards must be lauded. As must the flair of Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana's finishing. But in his 50th Test it was scrum-half Fourie du Preez who stood tallest.

Moment of the match: All four of South Africa's tries had their own moments of magic, but perhaps Du Preez's opener signaled that these men in green and gold meant business.

Villain of the match: A few pushing and shoving here and there, but nothing to write home about.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Giteau 2, Turner
Cons: Giteau 2
Pens: Giteau 2

For South Africa:
Tries: Du Preez, Fourie, Habana 2
Cons: M Steyn 3
Pens: M Steyn 2

Australia:15 James O'Connor, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Adam Ashley Cooper, 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Richard Brown, 7 George Smith (c), 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 James Horwill, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota Nau, 17 Al Baxter, 18 Dean Mumm, 19 David Pocock, 20 Will Genia, 21 Quade Cooper, 22 Drew Mitchell.

South Africa: 15 Ruan Pienaar, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 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 Andries Bekker, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie , 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Frans Steyn.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Vinny Munro (New Zealand).

By Dave Morris

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