Boks end losing streak

2012-09-29 17:45

Wallabies still can’t break Loftus hex.

South Africa (14) 31Australia (3) 8

The swathe of empty seats in the East Stand told a story of biting ticket prices and a sign of the economic times.

To get bums on seats, ticket prices have to be lowered. Whether the R250 tickets for the FNB Stadium Test match could be a remedy can only be seen next week.

Those who did not bother to fork out their hard-earned cash missed what was a two-faced Test match which, in all truths, the Springboks had to win.

With a threadbare side which lost two key players in Adam Ashley-Cooper and Berrick Barnes compounding their injury problems, Australia never looked like breaking their Loftus Versfeld duck.

There were none of those surging line breaks and Springboks flying off tackles like in the corresponding fixture two years ago.

Die-hard Morne Steyn fans would have smirked when four penalty attempts went narrowly wide. What they witnessed was a proverbial nailing of the Bulls flyhalf’s coffin.

Heyneke Meyer will have to be brave not to persist with his two young flyhalves.

A smarter Bok forward effort neutered any breakdown thuggery Michael Hooper could bring to the table.

Indeed Duane Vermeulen, not a renowned ball scavenger, reigned supreme on the deck.

Eben Etzebeth focused his aggression on pilfering Aussie lineout ball and one of his steals was the crux of Zane Kirchner’s 22nd-minute try.

With crisp service from Ruan Pienaar, who deputised well with the boot, Johan Goosen became Icarus without the sun to burn his wings.

An excellent line break seared the Wallaby defence and only a desperate tackle saved the visitors.

Bryan Habana’s hat-trick began with an excellently worked try, which began with him keeping the ball in hand instead of trying to chip and chase.

Ball retention, which the Boks lacked in Australasia, was the hallmark of the try as the ball went through several phases, patience being the key.

Ashley-Cooper’s try-saving tackle on Kirchner ended his participation, but it saved Australia the embarrassment of trailing by more than 15 points as Kurtley Beale slotted a penalty towards the end of the half.

Again a quiet start hid a second half, where the Boks would not ratchet down the pressure. Running more than they kick, they tested the wilting but resolute defence.

The Boks have had an irritating habit of going to sleep early in the second half, but having wisely learnt from their errors on tour, they sought to clean out the match early.

With the Aussies a man down, a well-executed maul saw Francois Louw crashing over, but Habana’s second try was straight out Australia’s book of quick-thinking as Habana’s quick throw in to Adriaan Strauss caught the Wallabies flat-footed and Habana sauntered over under the sticks.

As bad as they were, Australia were due a try, which was scored by Mike Harris in the 67th minute. As much as the Boks’ running game improved, it will have to be fine-tuned and tweaked ahead of the All Black Test on Saturday.

However, the backs meant business and, as classy as New Zealand’s backs may be, if the forward battle is won, this time the advantage can be rammed home.

Without a credible attacking strategy and a referee who eagle-eyed the breakdown, the defence was not asked to break too much of a sweat.

There is life without Steyn, and a good one at that.

Scorers
South Africa

Tries: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana (3), Francois Louw

Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (3)

Australia

Try: Mike Harris

Penalty: Kurtley Beale


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