Boks caught short

Australia 21 South Africa 16
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The Independent Online
Andre Joubert destroyed South Africa's bid for world-record rugby glory in Sydney yesterday. The Springbok full-back missed a series of penalty goal attempts that could have put points up against Australia in the first half. He then gifted the winning try to the Wallaby centre Tim Horan midway through the second spell.

Joubert's lapses could be linked to the hamstring strain that almost forced him out of the match, but inevitably those mistakes cost the Springboks their chance of emulating the record of 17 consecutive Test wins, set by New Zealand during the 1960s. After one draw and 15 straight wins, Francois Pienaar's team expected to go the distance, but Joubert's inaccuracy from two crucial first-half penalties meant the Springboks failed to seize the initiative.What is worse for their clash on Saturday with the All Blacks, Pienaar was assisted from the field three minutes before the end with a sus- pected fractured upper arm.

Joubert had started well. In the eighth minute he curled over a penalty goal that seemed likely to provide the platform for a South African win. Australia, bouncing back after last week's 43-6 humiliation by the All Blacks, had other ideas.

The full-back Matthew Burke forced them ahead with two first-half penalties, and in the 32nd minute some good work from the recalled flanker Daniel Manu allowed the centre Joe Roff to score a try in the corner.

Pienaar then opted for the stand-off Henry Honiball to take over the kicking duties. He responded by landing two penalties inside four minutes to drag the South Africans within two points before Burke replied with another penalty. In the 64th minute, as Joubert fielded a chip through from Horan, South Africa seemed sure to launch another counter-attack. But Joubert hesitated and was tackled by the Wallaby skipper, John Eales, who freed the ball and fed Horan, who charged to the line.

Burke's conversion in effect put the game out of reach, but a Joubert looping pass sent in the wing Pieter Hendriks for a 77th-minute try. Honiball's conversion gave them brief hope but their failure to turn possession into points cost them victory. Pienaar admitted: "We were under- prepared. Australia have played four more Tests in their build-up than we have and in the end that made the difference. We will be ready for New Zealand next week." So will the All Blacks.

Australia: M Burke (NSW); B Tune (Queensland), J Roff (ACT), T Horan (Queensland), D Campese (NSW); P Howard (ACT), G Gregan (ACT); M Brial (NSW), D Wilson (Queensland), D Manu (NSW); J Eales (Queensland), G Morgan (Queensland), A Heath (NSW), M Foley (Queensland), D Crowley (Queensland).

South Africa: A Joubert (Natal); J Small (Natal), J Mulder (Transvaal), B Venter (Orange Free State), P Hendriks (Transvaal); H Honiball (Natal), J Van der Westhuizen (Northern Transvaal); G Teichmann (Natal), R Kruger (Northern Transvaal), F Pienaar (Transvaal), M Andrews (Natal), J Ackermann (Northern Transvaal), M Hurter (Northern Transvaal), J Allan (Natal), O Du Rant (OFS). Replacement: J Roux (Transvaal) for Van der Westhuizen, 75; N Drotske (OFS) for F Pienaar, 77.