A monumental upset extended South Africa's record of never having defeated the Wallabies in Brisbane as the pride was restored to Australian rugby yesterday.
It wasn't just that the hitherto all-conquering Springboks lost by two tries to nil, crushed by the relentless pressure mounted by Robbie Deans' Wallabies. The Australians, far more structured and effective compared to the previous week's defeat in Perth, were denied three tries after correct decisions from the video referee. Lachie Turner, Will Genia and Matt Giteau were the unlucky Wallabies.
Seven days after Australia suffered a hammering at the hands of the same opponents, this was one of the most extraordinary comebacks in rugby history. Whether it was because the world champions believed themselves invincible or whether it was due to fatigue was unclear. But South Africa looked a shadow of the side that had won their first four Tri-Nations games.
Their defeat, without a bonus point, meant that New Zealand's hopes of retaining their title stayed alive. The All Blacks will probably need to win their two final games, both at home, with bonus points.
For Australia, the chief difference to their previous performance was that they eliminated most of their errors. That meant they could sustain pressure and the world champions looked uncomfortable. It was a terrific, physical contest. The ball carrier was hammered in the tackle and the courageous Wallabies held on to possession much better. Their scrambling defence was superior too, although the South Africans also completed some mighty defensive tasks.
Australia led 9-6 at half-time, all the points coming through kicks, but it was a captivating contest for the spectators. On the hour, the Wallaby pressure at last paid off, the centre Adam Ashley-Cooper exploiting a gap to race over. Matt Giteau, who had kicked two penalties and a drop goal, converted for 16-6 and it was obvious that South Africa, who were again badly exposed in the scrums, had little left.
The 19-year-old Australia full-back, James O'Connor, finished them off, seizing a ball lost by Fourie du Preez and scuttling 25 metres to score.
Australia: J O'Connor; L Turner (P Hynes, 31), A Ashley-Cooper, B Barnes (Q Cooper, 75), D Mitchell; M Giteau, W Genia; B Robinson, T Polota-Nau (S Moore, 33), B Alexander (P Cowan, 76), J Horwill, M Chisholm, R Elsom, G Smith (capt), D Pocock.
South Africa: R Pienaar (F, Steyn 67); O Ndungane, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana (A Jacobs, 36); M Steyn, F du Preez; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J Smit (capt), B Botha (D Rossouw, 59), V Matfield, H Brussow (S Burger, 59), P Spies, J Smith.
Referee: W Barnes (England).Reuse content