The Wallabies downed an errant and rudderless Springbok side 23-18 in Brisbane on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Boks could not have asked for a better run of luck in the lead-up to the game and in the early stages of the clash itself. The Wallabies lost star loose forward David Pocock to injury the day before the match, while fullback Israel Folau and lock Adam Coleman were withdrawn before kickoff.
The wet conditions at Suncorp Stadium suited the visitors. Apart from a lapse in the first minute, that saw the Wallabies scoring through Michael Hooper, the Bok forwards hammered their counterparts at the scrums and breakdowns. The Wallabies conceded seven penalties in the first half alone.
The Boks were their own worst enemies during this period. The visitors would get themselves into great scoring positions and then concede possession through poor handling or woeful decision-making.
The Boks were more consistent in the second stanza in that they failed to win the collisions, leaked penalties, and failed to score a single point.
There were some bright moments. Bongi Mbonambi scored after a well-executed maul in the 14th minute. The forwards did well to secure the ball at the rucks and create some momentum in the buildup to the Boks’ second try. This time, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk showed exemplary vision and skill to send a looping pass out to Makazole Mapimpi out on the right wing.
The Boks should have taken control from there. Instead, they allowed the Wallabies back into the contest with what could best be described as a collective brain fart.
At the time, it wasn’t clear which player had called for a long lineout throw when the Boks had the feed on their own tryline. Mbonambi got it horribly wrong when he tossed up a long spiralling ball and missed his target completely. The ball bounced into the hands of Matt Toomua, who dived over for a momentum-shifting score. Bok coach Rassie Erasmus reacted by taking Mbonambi off the field.
Reece Hodge kicked a penalty from inside his own half to see the Wallabies trail 18-17 at the break. The scoreline flattered the Wallabies, and perhaps highlighted the Boks’ inability to make the most of their dominance.
The Boks were on the back foot during the early stages of the second stanza. They failed to win the collisions and they started to concede penalties.
While the Boks kept the Wallabies from breaching the line, they could not stop Toomua from slotting a penalty and steering the hosts into the lead. After 55 minutes, the Wallabies were starting to take control.
The Boks never gave up. Their accuracy and vision didn’t match their desire, though, with several scoring opportunities spurned through knock-ons and poorly executed kicks.
The Wallabies won a scrum penalty in the 69th minute and opted to shoot for goal. Toomua put the ball between the poles to stretch the lead to five points.
Handré Pollard kicked a penalty to touch in the 76th minute as the Boks went in search of the winning try. The visitors crossed the line, but the TMO confirmed that there was a double knock-on in the buildup.
A final surge by the Boks in the dying seconds ended in a turnover. De Klerk made a careless pass which was intercepted by Bernard Foley. The Wallabies cleared from there, and won the game.
The result marks yet another loss for the Boks on Australasian soil. They’re unlikely to end their five-year drought this season, considering they will face the All Blacks in Wellington next week. The Boks haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2009.
Wallabies – Tries: Michael Hooper, Matt Toomua. Conversion: Toomua (2). Penalties: Reece Hodge, Toomua (2).
Springboks – Tries: Bongi Mbonambi, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Wallabies – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Will Genia, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lukhan Tui, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Folau Faingaa, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tom Banks.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.
Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images