A 23-23 draw in Perth earlier this month displayed the wafer-thin differences between the Wallabies and the Springboks and Saturday’s clash on the Highveld was no different.
Australian fly-half Bernard Foley racked up two milestones, moving past 500 Test points on his 50th cap with a conversion from Israel Folau’s early score. Ruan Dreyer responded and the Boks began a second half which saw the lead change hands four times by moving ahead through Jan Serfontein.
The Boks had the best chance to win it through a 78th-minute penalty that Jantjies sent wide, with neither side able to find the kind of inspiration which saw a last-gasp Kurtley Beale penalty win a famous Test on this ground in 2010.
After a 57-0 thrashing at the hands of the All Blacks last time out, South Africa needed a win to keep their title hopes alive, but Steve Hansen’s men now have an unassailable six-point lead which will allow them to celebrate prior to Saturday’s meeting with Argentina.
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) September 30, 2017
South Africa enjoyed dominant territory from the off, but stiff Wallabies resistance paid off when they first ventured forward as Folau latched on to a sharp inside pass to nip through and open the scoring.
Foley’s conversion took him beyond 500 Test points, but Dreyer opened his account at Test level as the hosts were rewarded for sending a kickable penalty into touch and following it with a well-worked maul.
Foley and Jantjies traded penalty goals, before Dreyer slipped in the scrum to hand the Australian another simple three-pointer, ensuring the Wallabies were ahead during a half-time break in which both teams may have been stewing after a set-to sparked by South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth reacting furiously after Folau hauled Dillyn Leyds to the turf by his hair.
The players certainly emerged from the break energised as a thrilling start to the second half seesawed one way and then the other, Serfontein putting the Boks back ahead after latching on to Leyds’ superb offload.
Siya Kolisi had played a crucial role in that score, but he quickly went from hero to zero as Foley ran over him all too easily before setting Koroibete away for his first Test try.
Skosan barrelled through two tackles to touch down and the frenetic pace quickened and quickened before a raucous crowd was silenced again by Australia’s third try.
The Wallabies forwards banged away under the posts, earning a penalty advantage, but Foley had grander designs, firing a beauty to the left flank, where Koroibete was waiting to double his tally, Foley’s laser-guided conversion from the touchline capping a perfect performance from the tee.
The home side regained a foothold and Jantjies was under pressure when opting to kick from nearly 50 metres with 10 minutes to play but he nailed his kick. Another chance came with time running out, but the fly-half could not repeat the trick from wide left as the sides’ even nature came to the fore again.
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