It wasn’t pretty, but the Springboks got the job done, and ultimately that’s all that matters as they held off the Wallabies 23-12 in their Rugby Championship clash in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi would’ve been two relieved men at the final whistle at the majestic Nelson Mandela Stadium after their team had built up a 14-0 lead, but almost allowing the Aussies back into the game in the second half.
The South Africans got off to the best possible start when star wing Aphiwe Dyantyi – who else? – grabbed an intercept try after just 23 seconds.
Kurtley Beale threw an ill-judged long pass across the face of his own posts in looking for his captain Michael Hooper, and Dyantyi read the play beautifully to snatch it out of the air.
The Boks came out of the blocks with good energy, with skipper Kolisi leading the charge with a number of strong runs and tackles.
The forwards were winning the collisions at that stage, which allowed the home backline to play on the front foot – although Jesse Kriel wasted one opportunity by passing into touch.
But the forward dominance led to a Handré Pollard special as he scythed through the Wallaby defence in the 21st minute, stepping past Folau Faingaa and gave the inside pass to a free Faf de Klerk to round off.
It looked like it was going to be a long day for the visitors at 14-0 down, but inspired by the commanding presence of breakdown master David Pocock, they never gave up.
They eventually secured enough possession to have a go at the Bok defence, and it was Will Genia who spotted an unmarked Reece Hodge out wide and Dyantyi in no-man’s land to open the Aussie account in the 26th minute.
Genia was again the spark for the next try just three minutes later, as he darted down the blindside and Marika Koroibete, who was able to get his return pass away to the Wallaby No 9 to score.
Suddenly the Boks’ lead had been whittled down to 14-12, and it was game on.
The South Africans lacked patience on attack, looking to force the “glory pass” too early instead of holding on to possession and building phases.
Some of De Klerk’s option-taking – as well as his box-kicks – were disappointing, and the knock-on virus from Brisbanecrept back into the SA effort.
Pollard, though, kept the scoreboard ticking over with three penalties either side of halftime to stretch the lead to 23-12.
Both teams had further opportunities to score, but often the final pass didn’t go to hand.
Dyantyi conceded a yellow card with 15 minutes to go as the Boks were pinged for repeated infringements, but they scrambled well to hold out the Wallaby attackers.
So, Erasmus will be happy with the win, but not the performance. Some hard yards need to be done in training next week if they want to extend their winning run to three by toppling the All Blacks once more at Loftus Versfeld.
Springboks 23 – Tries: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Faf de Klerk. Conversions: Handré Pollard (2). Penalties: Pollard (3).
Wallabies 12 – Tries: Reece Hodge, Will Genia. Conversion: Matt Toomua (1).