Nervous Boks hold on to take Tri-Nations title

South Africa 23 - Australia 19
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The Independent Online

They wobbled like jellies, managed only a single penalty goal in 40 minutes, missed tackles late on and had two players sent to the sin-bin.

They wobbled like jellies, managed only a single penalty goal in 40 minutes, missed tackles late on and had two players sent to the sin-bin.

Yet from such apparent ashes, somehow South Africa did just enough to scrape home and take the Tri-Nations title for the first time in six years.

The Springboks were fortunate that Australia fell apart in the third quarter, allowing the home side to come from 7-3 down at half-time to a 23-7 lead. But when Stirling Mortlock and George Smith scored tries in the final 10 minutes to add to Lote Tuqiri's first-half score, a nation's heartbeat all but halted.

All South Africa celebrated the win, but Jake White's team still has many weaknesses. They lack a strong tighthead prop to strengthen the scrum, and some of their decision-making can be perilous, to say the least.

But tries by the excellent Victor Matfield and Joe van Niekerk, plus Percy Montgomery's two conversions and second-half brace of penalties were enough, in the end, to win the title for the Springboks.

South Africa: Tries Matfield, Van Niekerk; Conversions Montgomery 2 Penalties Montgomery 3. Australia: Tries Tuqiri, Mortlock, Smith; Conversions Giteau 2.

SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery; B Paulse, M Joubert, D Barry, J de Villiers; J van der Westhuyzen, B Conradie (F du Preez 40); O du Randt (H Shimange 79), J Smit (capt), E Andrews (CJ van der Linde 67), B Botha, V Matfield, S Burger (J Cronje 36-40), J van Niekerk, AJ Venter (G Britz 64).

AUSTRALIA: C Latham; C Rathbone (W Sailor 64), S Mortlock (M Burke 74), M Giteau, L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan (capt); B Young (M Dunning 67), B Cannon (J Paul 64), A Baxter, J Harrison, N Sharpe (D Vickerman 56), G Smith (J Roe 23-28), D Lyons (Roe 69), P Waugh.

Referee: P O'Brien (New Zealand)

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