Wallabies bounce back to give Boks� White fright

South Africa 22 Australia 16
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The Independent Online

South Africa began the defence of their Tri-Nations title with a hard-earned victory over Australia in Pretoria.

In a typically physical and tight match, the Boks sealed their victory with a dropped goal in the dying seconds by fly-half Andre Pretorius.

The victory kept alive Jake White's unbeaten record at home since taking over as Springbok coach and took Australia's losing streak to 13 matches in a row in South Africa since 1999. The Wallabies have never won at Loftus Versfeld in four attempts.

But it was not a game the Boks will remember for long, even though they overturned a 13-6 deficit at the break. Too many times there were gaps in their defence, and too many times they lost out around the fringes.

Percy Montgomery may have kept the scores equal for most of the first half with a penalty and a left-footed dropped goal to counter Matt Giteau's two penalties, but he was a lot more suspect as the Wallabies exploited his Achilles heel.

The Wallabies took the lead just before half-time after catching the Boks unawares with a well executed move from their three-quarters. Wendell Sailor chipped over Breyton Paulse, then dragged him over the goalline to force a five metres scrum.

From the resulting set-piece, the ball was popped to George Smith by his captain George Gregan, who slammed the ball over the tryline for the score. Giteau converted.

The Boks eventually crossed the Wallaby line in the 51st minute, as lateral running from Andre Pretorius fired a pass to speedster Bryan Habana in space.

Habana managed to offload in the tackle to full-back Montgomery, who sent Paulse down the touchline for a scintillating score.

Montgomery's conversion then levelled the scores at 13-13.

Giteau edged his side ahead on 60 minutes as the Boks were penalised for holding on, but it was not long before Montgomery restored the deadlock when the Wallabies were penalised at the ruck.

The see-saw battle continued before another Wallabies indiscretion saw Montgomery edge the Boks ahead with a 40-metre penalty.

Pretorious then sealed the win in final moments with a low-struck dropped goal.

South Africa: P Montgomery; B Paulse, J Fourie, J de Villiers, B Habana; A Pretorius, F du Preez (R Januarie, 69); G Steenkamp, J Smit (capt), C J van der Linde (G Botha, 68), B Botha, V Matfield (A van den Berg, 62), J van Niekerk, J Smith, J Cronje (S Burger, 50).

Australia: C Latham; W Sailor (D Mitchell, 72), M Turinui (S Mortlock, 55), M Giteau, L Tuqiri; S Larkham, G Gregan (capt); B Young, J Paul, M Dunning (A Baxter, 44), D Vickerman (M Chisholm, 71), N Sharpe, G Smith, P Waugh, J Roe (R Elsom, 75).

Referee: P Honiss (New Zealand).

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