With both the Tri-nations and the Bledisloe decided, the Wallabies turned their attention to the Republic and the return of the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate to its rightful home. Having won the match in Brisbane, They only needed to win this game to at least have a trophy of note in the cabinet before the End of Year Tours kick off. This match, held at altitude in Pretoria against a wounded Bokke outfit was always going to be a tough ask, however the Wallabies, buoyed by the return of the Quade train, were confident of their chances against the home team.A huge reception from the less than full crowd was reserved, deservedly, for 100 test veteran Victor Matfield.
The Wallabies attacking intent was clear from the start, not even a TMO call gone wrong on a Drew Mitchell try could dampen it when Will Genia threw a quick dummy just after the restart and was across the line for the first official points. A massive break, and wonderfully held up pass from Kurtley Beale to Rocky Elsom, who was supporting well, saw James O’Connor go in off some quick ruck ball and the Wallabies were up 14 zip after only 5 minutes.
Just when you thought things would settle down after that, the home team hit back with a lovely inside pass to Juan Smith moving quick and on the angle, ran straight through the defence and in for a home try. Keeping with the spirit of the game so far, Bryan Habana fumbled the kick-off which was cleaned up by O’Connor who ran the 20 odd metres unopposed for a try. Verging on the ridiculous, the springbok Guthro Steenkamp then scored a quick try in reply after a couple of line outs went their way and it was 21-14 after only 16 minutes.
Things did settle somewhat from there as everyone realised you were still allowed to tackle, and we were treated to a 59 metre penalty kick from Morne Steyn. Kurtley Beale tried his own from halfway, but was not as accurate.
A great run from Schmoo and a nice kick (and a fortuitous bounce for the Wallabies) saw Habana pinged for holding on, Genia took a quick tap and it was given to Dean Mumm to cross for his first test try, and the Bonus Point for the Wallabies by the 27 minute mark. Gits added the extras. The obligatory return try to the Bokke came with … Pierre Spies crossing to have them within a sniff of a 4 try Bonus Point. That was the last of the scoring before oranges in what was a frenetic first half.
The Second half started in a much more test match like intensity, so much so that the first scoring opportunity came with a Penalty to the home team for a high tackle from Saia Fiangaa, which was converted by M. Steyn. This score was quickly reciprocated by the Wallabies with Gits kicking the reply for a similar call.
Just when you thought it was going they were going to trade penaties instead of tries, Frans Steyn finished off a backline move shortly after another terrible restart from the Wallabies, the Conversion saw the home team into the lead for the first time, with the 4 try bonus point now earned.
The teams pressured hard on each other’s lines, with the Wallabies intent to run shown by an audacious run from KB, from inside the Wallabies in goal, saw the wallabies pulled up with a knock on just a few metres out after a couple of phases. Defence was back in this match.
A war of attrition developed, and was not broken until Joe Peterson crossed at the 80th minute to put the result beyond doubt, and rob the Wallabies of the Bonus point for not losing by as much. The south Africans were able to break their Tri-nations duck and big Vic was able to win his 100th.
It was a case of the Wallabies showing their potential, but not being good enough to close the match out. It would have been interesting to see the difference Stephen Moore coming off the bench may have made.
Australia 31: (Try O’Conner 2, Genia , Mumm Conversion Giteau 4/4 Penalty Giteau 1/1, Beale 0/1) South Africa 44: (Try: Juan Smith, Steenkamp, Pierre Spies, Francois Steyn, Pieterson Con: M Steyn 4/4, James 1/1 Pen: M Steyn 2/2 F Steyn 1/1)