Rugby Union: South Africa given taste of the real world

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The Independent Online
South Africa 3

Australia 26

SOUTH AFRICA were humbled by the heaviest defeat in their rugby history yesterday, the world champions overcoming them on a rain-soaked Newlands ground here. In dry conditions it might have been an even bigger margin as the Wallabies' superiority was overwhelming. They finished with a tremendous flourish, scoring 15 points in the last 10 minutes.

It was all so different from the scene in Johannesburg last week when the Springboks only lost by three points to New Zealand and their ill-mannered spectators sparked off a racial controversy.

This time politics was pushed to the background. Although the stadium was awash with South African flags, the supporters respected the call for a minute's silence after being warned: 'The eyes of the rugby world are on you so please show your respect.' There was no singing of the national anthem, 'Die Stem' - regarded by the black community here as a symbol of apartheid.

The controversy that threatened the cancellation of this match provided extra iron to the Wallabies, who were determined to prove they are the best side in the world. Their captain, Nick Farr-Jones, said: 'I am delighted that the game was eventually played and we won so convincingly as South Africa are still regarded as a major rugby power. I think our performance in the second half was equal to that first half against New Zealand in Dublin during the World Cup semi-final.' He also said that this, his 59th international, would be his last, a fact that the coach, Bob Dwyer, did not seem to be happy with. 'I thought Nick played one of his best tests today. I think it's pretty silly of him to retire,' he said.

Naas Botha, the Springboks captain, said that the Australians proved they were genuine world champions and they produced a better all-round performance than New Zealand last week: 'Then I thought we were always in with a chance to win but this was not the case this time.' Like his opposite number, retirement was a subject under consideration, though he is going to give it some thought. 'Straight after the game it's stupid to make a decision,' he said. 'I'll tell you in 24 hours.'

The muddy conditions and frequent rain upset both teams and made kicking a lottery. Botha landed only one penalty in five attempts while the world record points-scorer, Michael Lynagh, managed only four out of 10.

Once again the Springboks gave away too many penalties and flanker Whal Bartmann was frequently guilty of pulling down mauls and was rightly punished by the referee, David Bishop of New Zealand.

It was a scrappy first half with both teams relying on high kicks in the hope of forcing errors. The treacherous surface made running a gamble and it became a matter of gaining territory to provide a chance of attacking close to the line. Throughout, the Wallabies gained valuable line-out possession and one superb jump by John Eales turned the game decisively in his team's favour just before half-time.

This was followed by a short break by the explosive Tongan- born Willie Ofahengaue. He was supported by Jason Little, and with hardly any room to manoeuvre, the wing Paul Carozza scored near the left touch flag. This gave the Australians a five-point lead at half-time following penalties by Lynagh and Botha earlier.

During the second half South Africa seldom featured as an effective force. Their spectators reacted by throwing oranges on to the field in despair. It was not until the last 10 minutes, though, that Australia were able to over- run the Springboks.

After Lynagh had landed a 35- yard penalty there was a passage of brilliant play from centre Tim Horan. Snapping up a loose ball, he ran 60 yards and, when confronted by Dannie Gerber kicked ahead and was up to tackle the South African. Ofahengaue was up in support and then the ubiquitous David Campese appeared on the right wing to score his 50th try in Test rugby.

South Africa tried to launch back-line attacks but they were destroyed by some tenacious tackling. Also Botha produced an off- form performance. Lynagh added another penalty, and a minute from the end Carozza scored his second try by dribbling the ball over 40 yards and then ecstatically diving for a try. The other heavy defeats suffered by South Africa in Tests were by 20-3 against New Zealand in 1965 and 28-9 by the Lions in 1974.

It is obvious that South Africa are not, on the form shown yesterday, quite up with the world's best, but they will have the advantage of touring together when they visit France at the end of next month, followed by four matches in England. The Australians proved that they are more advanced in the modern forward techniques and have developed a team with a large variety of skills.

SOUTH AFRICA: T van Rensburg; P Hendriks (Transvaal), P Muller (Natal), D Gerber (W Province), J Small (Transvaal); N Botha (N Transvaal, capt), R du Preez (Natal); J Styger (Freestate), U Schmidt (N Transvaal) L Muller (Natal), A Geldenhuys (E Province), A Malan (N Transvaal), W Bartmann, (Natal) J Breedt, I MacDonald (Transvaal). Replacement: D Hattingh for Geldenhuys, 65 min.

AUSTRALIA: M Roebuck (NSW); D Campese (NSW), T Horan, J Little, P Carozza; M Lynagh (Queensland), N Farr-Jones (capt); J Daly, P Kearns, E McKenzie (NSW), R McColl, J Eales (Queensland), W Ofahengaue, T Gavin (NSW), D Wilson (Queensland).

Referee: D Bishop (New Zealand).

Scores: South Africa: Penalty: Botha. Australia: Tries: Carozza (2), Campese. Conversion: Lynagh. Penalties: Lynagh (3).

(Photograph omitted)