South Africa made 121 tackles in the match and none did better than Juan Smith, the flanker, who made 15. Bryan Habana's deadly finishing helped. The 22-year-old who has 12 tries in 11 Tests raced 80 metres for a try in each half.
Habana struck first after three minutes. The second time, Australia had clawed their way back from a 14-6 half-time deficit to be leading 19-17 with 12 minutes left. Again from a turnover, the Springboks moved the ball wide and Habana streaked away to win the match.
Australia threw everything at the Boks from the off in a desperate bid to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat for the first time since 1981. South Africa were hammered back, forced into deep defence.
The Springboksstruggled in the line-outs. Australia won that contest 19-11, but their biggest win was in the rucks and mauls, where they won 92-33. Yet the Wallabies too often undermined their good work with a lack of patience, forcing the pass and turning over possession.
How the Springboks reached the interval eight points ahead was a mystery. Their wing Breyton Paulse was sent to the sin-bin after 20 minutes - he was later cited for kicking, in a separate incident - and they created nothing, but Percy Montgomery punished home mistakes.
The full-back kicked three penalty goals, after 18, 28 and 38 minutes. He missed both conversions and three other penalties, hitting the crossbar twice, but he also dropped a goal 10 minutes after the break when Drew Mitchell, Australia's young full-back, missed touch from defence.
Australia fought back. Andre Pretorius's missed tackle on Morgan Turinui after 51 minutes gave them a try, finished by their former South Africa Under-21 centre Clyde Rathbone. Mat Rogers, who had earlier kicked two penalties to add to one by Matt Giteau, converted, and his third penalty nine minutes later edged Australia ahead. The momentum was with them, but another turnover near South Africa's line gave Habana one more chance. He snaffled it.
It will surely get worse for Australia. Their last game is in New Zealand.
Australia: D Mitchell; M Rogers, C Rathbone (A Ashley-Cooper, 77), M Turinui, L Tuqiri; M Giteau, G Gregan (capt; C Whitaker, 69); W Young (M Dunning, 38-44, 55), B Cannon, A Baxter, D Vickerman, N Sharpe, R Elsom (J Roe, 55), P Waugh (G Smith, 69), D Lyons.
South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana; A Pretorius (J van der Westhuyzen, 60), E Januarie (F du Preez, 50); O du Randt (G Steenkamp, 55), J Smit (capt), C J van der Linde, B Botha (A van den Berg, 64), V Matfield, S Burger, J Smith, J van Niekerk.
Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).Reuse content