Wallabies steal victory from Springboks
19 July, 2015, 11:07 am
Update: 11:07AM TEVITA Kuridrani has scored a dramatic post-siren try to drag the Wallabies to a 24-20 win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday night.
In a case of genuine highway robbery, Australia snatched the scarcely-deserved win at the death with Kuridrani’s fifth Test try, muscling over the line and somehow sneaking the ball down amidst a mess of bodies more than a minute and a half into red time.
Video referee Ben Skeen pored over the footage and sparked near-bedlam amongst the 37,633 crowd at Suncorp Stadium – and the Wallabies players – when he gave the green light.
The ferocious Springboks were a class above for most of the night, easily winning the scrum battle, dominating the breakdown and standing firm at the right moments to pose a new set of questions to Australia coach Michael Cheika.
The win was soured by an injury to Will Genia, who limped off at half-time with a medial ligament strain in his knee and didn’t return, throwing a monkey wrench into Cheika’s playmaking plans.
Genia’s replacement, Nick Phipps, played out the match and depending on the severity of the injury may have the chance to stamp himself as Australia’s first-choice halfback in next weekend’s Test in Argentina.
But Cheika may opt to re-examine his options with Quade Cooper unconvincing and eventually shown up by his replacement at five-eighth, Matt Toomua, who helped straighten up the Wallabies in the last 15 minutes.
South Africa rode the trusty boot of Handre Pollard to a 6-0 lead but the Wallabies stormed in front with the first try of the match in the 33rd minute.
Cooper converted to give Australia a 7-5 lead, but five minutes later the Springboks went back in front when Bryan Habana cleverly batted back a high ball to Willie le Roux, who played in Eben Etzebeth.
Five minutes after the break, South Africa were in again as Jesse Kriel cut through Australia’s left side with ease, brushing off the advances of James Slipper and Israel Folau and throwing off Phipps to touch down.
Cheika admitted the Wallabies were below par but was proud of the way his side battled to the end.
“We knew that with the new shape and set-up we’ve got … (it) just didn’t flow as much as we wanted it to,” Cheika said.
“For me, rugby’s all about attitude. It comes down to a blade of grass really and they’re the margins.
“We were able to do it tonight and we’re really happy for that.”
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer described the defeat as “really heartbreaking” and said the first-half loss of skipper Victor Matfield to a hamstring injury cruelled their chances.
“It’s not an excuse but maybe if Victor was on the field to the end, it would have been different,” Meyer said.
Australia 24 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Tevita Kuridrani tries Quade Cooper 2, Matt Giteau cons Cooper pen) South Africa 20 (Eben Etzebeth, Jesse Kriel tries Handre Pollard 2 cons 2 pens) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Nigel Owens. Crowd: 37,633