Smit bemoans lacklustre Boks
South Africa 13
On an Australian rugby ground which lies on the site of colonial Brisbane's old cemetery, the Springboks were buried decisively, their hopes of retaining the Tri Nations crown laid emphatically to rest.
John Smit's men return home to South Africa this morning from a disastrous 2010 Tri Nations tour, without a single point from three matches and, perhaps even more importantly, apparently without a clue how to turn around this collapse in form.
These South Africans were condemned by the words of their own captain, who spoke afterwards with a frankness that went to the heart of his team's malaise.
"Our defence was poor, our breakdown work was poor and our attack was ordinary. Defence has been the poorest facet of our game for the last three weeks. In fact, we are very realistic about how poor and average we have been in these weeks," Smit admitted.
Australia left a lot of points out on the field because of some poor, unimaginative attacking play in the final quarter. They lacked precision and the ability to be clinical in their execution, but were lifted to victory by the quality of their defence.
Scrambling defence cut off the South Africans' comeback after they had trailed 17-3 at the break. There were four penalty goals by Matt Giteau, for a variety of offences, to one by Morne Steyn when it came to the final minute of the first half.
Then Smit threw a line-out straight to Wallaby captain Rocky Elsom and from the move, Giteau put wing Drew Mitchell over for the first try. By then, South Africa had had Jaque Fourie yellow-carded in the second minute for a dangerous tackle -- their third sin-binning in three weeks.
Giteau and James O'Connor punished further South African indiscipline with further penalties in the first five minutes of the second half.
Yet at 23-3, the Springboks, inspired by lock Danie Rossouw, then found their best form of the match. Fourie scored after 62 minutes and prop Gurthro Steenkamp got over from a rolling maul 10 minutes later, after a brilliant line-out move. But Ruan Pienaar could not convert either try and Will Genia's sniping score six minutes from the end sealed it.
Australia had outplayed their rivals at the breakdown where David Pocock gave a man of the match performance. It was not a great game from a technical point of view; there were far too many errors.
But the game was played at high pace and the weary Springboks suffered accordingly after a month away from home. The world champions have seriously lost their way and look in disarray.
"We have got to be satisfied with that. The Boks were desperate and threw everything at us but the boys stood the test of time. It was a good day at the office for us. But we know next week, we face a team (New Zealand) that will do all that and more," Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said.
Scorers -- Australia: D Mitchell, W Genia try each; M Giteau 5 pens; J O'Connor con, pen. South Africa: J Fourie, G Steenkamp try each; M Steyn pen.
Australia: A Ashley-Cooper; J O'Connor, R Horne, M Giteau (B Barnes 72), D Mitchell; Q Cooper, W Genia; B Robinson (J Slipper 58), S Faingaa (S Moore 55), S Ma'afu; D Mumm, N Sharpe; R Elsom (capt), D Pocock, R Brown.
South Africa: Z Kirchner; G Aplon, J Fourie, W Olivier (J De Jongh 54), B Habana; M Steyn (B James 54), R Pienaar (F Hougaard 73); G Steenkamp, J Smit (capt) (C Ralepelle 73), BJ Botha; D Rossouw, V Matfield; S Burger, R Kankowski, P Spies.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).