South Africa hit rock bottom at the Telstra Stadium as a desperately needed win was snatched from their grasp five minutes from the end. The home substitute Mat Rogers raced over in the corner and Stirling Mortlock's conversion wobbled over off the left-hand post.
For Australia to play so dreadfully and win was an indictment of the slump in the South African game. Beaten in the line-outs and bashed in the scrums, the Wallabies were also second best in the loose. But the South Africa full-back Percy Montgomery's kicking was a disaster. He missed two regulation penalties in the first half, one from straight in front of the posts. His badly sliced 63rd-minute clearance gave the Wallabies the field position from which Mortlock kicked another penalty.
Then there was Butch James's abject cross-field kick in the first half which was seized by the Wallaby wing Mark Gerrard, who scorched 50 metres to the line for a converted try. Through these gifts, and Mortlock's first penalty in the 12th minute, Australia led 10-0 at the end of a woeful first 40 minutes.
A new South Africa emerged after half-time. Two penalties from James trimmed the lead to 10-6 within nine minutes and five minutes later George Gregan dropped a pass, Fourie du Preez booted it on and Jaque Fourie won the race to score. James converted and South Africa were ahead, until Mortlock's second penalty made it 13-13.
South Africa scored again. Du Preez floated a pass to Montgomery and he, Bryan Habana and Akona Ndungane managed to drive themselves over the Wallaby line, the full-back touching down. James, crucially, missed the conversion.
Australia's substitute scrum-half, Sam Cordingley, then cleverly flipped up the ball and the replacement flanker Phil Waugh broke through to send Rogers over. The conversion won the game.
Australia: C Latham; M Gerrard (C Rathbone, 72), S Mortlock, M Giteau, L Tuqiri; S Larkham (M Rogers, 69), G Gregan (capt; S Cordingley, 72); G Holmes (G Shepherdson, 77), T McIsaac (J Paul, 49), R Blake, N Sharpe, D Vickerman, R Elsom (M Chisholm, 72), W Palu, G Smith (P Waugh, 54).
South Africa: P Montgomery; A Ndungane, J Fourie, W Olivier, B Habana; B James, F du Preez; O du Randt, J Smit (capt), C J van der Linde, J Muller (A van den Berg, 74), V Matfield, S Tyibilika (J van Niekerk, 69), J Cronje, J Smith.
Referee: J Jutge (France).Reuse content