South Africa made 169-tackles in their 23-12 win over Australia in Round Five of the Rugby Championship at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The victory kept alive the Springboks’ slim title hopes and ensured they would finish in the top two of the competition for the first time since 2014.
After completing a whopping 291-tackles against the All Blacks in their astounding 36-34 Wellington win a fortnight ago, the Boks were under pressure to maintain a similar standard without ball in hand this week. Rassie Erasmus’ charges’ display in PE would doubtless give them a massive boost as the head into the final Test of the 2018 edition against New Zealand in Pretoria.
The match would begin in the worst possible fashion for the Australians and Kurtley Beale. Starting again at flyhalf, the 29-year-old threw an audacious skip-pass just moments after kick-off which was intercepted by Aphiwe Dyanti, who strolled several-odd meters before diving over for the hosts.
The Bok forwards were bossing their counterparts at the gainline, and their dominance would eventually tell when Handre Pollard broke the line before neatly flicking inside to Faf de Klerk who went over for their second.
Michael Cheika’s men narowed the deficit against the run of play after first Reece Hodge and then Will Genia hit back. Still though, two Pollard penalties ensured his side headed for the shed with a 20-12 advantage.
Following another Pollard three-pointer early in the second-stanza, Australia set camp deep in Bok territory. Nevertheless, a mannish Bok defensive effort, coupled with a blunt Aussie attack, repelled them time and again.
Having absorbed a virtual 30-minutes of Wallaby offensive waves, the Boks managed to hold on for victory.
Tries – Dyantyi, de Klerk
Cons – Pollard (2)
Pens – Pollard (3)
Tries – Hodge, Genia
Cons – Toomua
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Malcolm Marx, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
Australia: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty; 14 Israel Folau, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete; 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Will Genia; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3 Taniela Tupou, 4 Adam Coleman; 5 Izack Rodda, 6 Ned Hanigan; 7 Michael Hooper (c), 8 David Pocock.
Replacements: 16 Folau Faingaa, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Rob Simmons, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Jack Maddocks.