Australia 23-18 South Africa: Wallabies resist late Bok fightback
By Keith Moore
Last Updated: 08/09/18 4:47pm
The Wallabies resisted a late surge from the Springboks to win 23-18 in Brisbane on Saturday.
Sloppy defending from both sides saw two tries apiece in the first half, with South Africa going into the break 18-17 ahead after Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi crossed the whitewash and Australia responded through Michael Hooper and Matt Toomua.
The Boks were unable to add to their tally in the second half, Toomua slotting two penalties to take his side five points ahead.
The visitors spent the last five minutes camped on the Australian line, but were unable to score as the Wallabies held out for a pressure-releasing first victory in this year's Rugby Championship.
South Africa also have a return of one from three in the tournament, and have now lost four out of their seven fixtures with Rassie Erasmus at the helm - and it doesn't get any easier for the side who last claimed the southern hemisphere title in 2009.
Next up the Springboks travel to Wellington to take on the All Blacks, who maintained their perfect start to the competition with a 46-24 bonus-point victory over Argentina earlier in the day, while the Wallabies will host the Pumas at Cbus Super Stadium in the Gold Coast in round four.
Australia were first out the blocks in Brisbane, with Toomua and Kurtley Beale linking up well in midfield to release Pete Samu down the left touchline. The Boks kept out their opponents initially, but ran out of numbers as Hooper opened his side's account inside three minutes with a try from close range.
Elton Jantjies reduced the deficit with a penalty shortly thereafter, and when the visitors drew more penalties from their opponents, they kicked for the corner which resulted in Mbonambi touching down on the back of a well-constructed driving maul.
The Boks were back on the scoreboard when Faf de Klerk spotted Makazole Mapimpi lurking on the right touchline, and spun a beautifully-weighted pass from the base of the ruck to make it 15-7 after Jantjies missed the touchline conversion.
Then came a moment of madness from the Springboks, who did well to end the threat of a Jack Maddocks dart for the line to bundle him into touch in the corner. From the lineout they opted to throw over the top, but instead of finding a South African forward, Mbonambi's throw bounced and was grabbed by Toomua to score what will likely be the easiest international try of his career.
Reece Hodge then slotted a long-range kick near the end of the first half to send the teams into the break with South Africa 18-17 ahead.
The second half saw far less scoring opportunities, and Toomua added six further points from the tee for the hosts as both sides struggled to gain any momentum.
South Africa then won a scrum penalty with five minutes remaining, and kicked for touch to take play inside the Australian 22-metre area.
That is where the rest of the game was played, with Cheika's side forced to defend relentlessly, and they were equal to the task as they saw off wave after wave of South African attack to claim their first win of the 2018 Rugby Championship.