By Mike Greenaway at the Absa Stadium, Durban
South Africa (0) 15
Tries: Jacobs (2); Conversion: Montomgery; Penalty: James
Australia (10) 27
Tries: Robinson, Tuqiri, Mortlock; Conversions: Giteau (3); Penalties: Giteau (2)
How could it come to this? How could the champions of the world in Paris 10 months ago be allowed to disintegrate into this shambles? Today, the Springboks remain World Cup holders, but world champions? Give us a break.
At the end of this agony, the 50 000 fans were a seething mass of disillusionment, unsure whether to scream, punch, kick or cry. Eventually, they resorted to booing the team when they trudged off the field. That continued when poor captain Victor Matfield made his post-match comments and it reached a crescendo when coach Peter de Villiers stood up to the microphone.
Two late consolation tries by Adrian Jacobs provided no smokescreen for a performance that was, in a word, abysmal.
Australia had not won in South Africa for eight years, but under the meticulous planning of the world's best coach, Robbie Deans, they won this game with consummate ease.
After the shame of losing 19-0 to New Zealand in Cape Town last week, the Springboks were even worse on Saturday and have now slumped to four Tri-Nations defeats in five starts, and next week travel to Johannesburg facing the prospect of a first ever home whitewash in the Tri-Nations.
The great irony of the sad demise of the Springboks in 2008 is that this was supposed to be the year when their young team kicked on from the global success in France and took their game to an unprecedented new level.
To put this defeat into context, we should remember that to the Wallabies winning in South Africa means the same as it does for the Springboks to win in New Zealand. It hardly ever happens and it takes an especially bad Bok team and a very good Wallaby team for it to happen.
At this juncture, it should be highlighted that there was a great deal of vim and vigour from the hosts. They cannot be faulted for effort. They just did not know how to channel that effort.
The Boks, as expected, came out of the starting blocks like angry bees, but they buzzed all over the place and manufactured little honey.
Their earnest endeavours were more frantic than measured, and the composed Wallabies rolled with the punches and stood firm.
There was a penalty after eight minutes by the immaculate Matt Giteau because of a reckless headbutt by CJ van der Linde, and prop Ben Robinson wrestled over in the 28th minute following a rare but effective foray into the Bok 22.
The Australian tactical kicking, which the Springbok coach had strangely highlighted in midweek as a weakness, was exceptional, with Giteau often delicately nudging the ball behind the defence to telling effect.
In the second half, captain Mortlock and wing Lote Tuqiri scored tries and Giteau kicked a second penalty to the penalty by Butch James and the two efforts by Jacobs.