Springboks march on in Cape Town
August 8, 2009
South Africa's Pierre Spies is shackled by Australia's defence during the clash in Cape Town
© Getty Images
Peter De Villiers Bakkies Botha Luke Burgess Bismarck du Plessis Matt Giteau James Horwill Victor Matfield Stephen Moore Ruan Pienaar Nathan Sharpe John Smit Morne Steyn
South Africa took a firm grip on this year's Tri-Nations with a 29-17 victory over Australia in their clash at Newlands in Cape Town.
A try from lock Victor Matfield and 24 points from the boot of in-form fly-half Morne Steyn kept the Springboks on course for only their third Tri-Nations crown after an eventful match that saw yellow cards for Wallabies Matt Giteau, Richard Brown and George Smith.
The ill-disciplined visitors had led through an early Adam Ashley-Cooper try but were made to pay for their inability to match their hosts' ferocity at the breakdown and despite edging the second half were unable to seriously trouble the unbeaten Springboks.
The Wallabies silenced a 49,000 capacity crowd with the opening score of the game with just two minutes on the clock. The visitors began brightly and secured the ball at an attacking lineout before shifting the ball with speed and precision to stretch the home side's defence. Fullback Ashley-Cooper was the beneficiary - handing off South Africa's JP Pietersen before powering through the tackle of Frans Steyn to touch down in the corner for his 10th Test try, which was converted by Giteau.
But the Wallabies' eagerness would soon cost them with their rush defence penalised for drifting offside. Boks No.10 Morne Steyn maintained his rich vein of form to close the gap with a sweetly struck kick and yet more disciplinary woe for the visitors allowed him to bring his side to within a point moments later.
A loose pass from Wallabies scrum-half Luke Burgess soon put his side under further pressure and, as a result, hooker Stephen Moore was penalised for not releasing. Up stepped Morne Steyn to slot his third penalty to give his side the lead with a quarter of an hour on the clock.
However, their lead was short-lived as an incisive run from Burgess a minute later set up a good field position from where Berrick Barnes slotted a superb drop goal - his fourth in Test rugby. Prop Al Baxter was the next Australian penalised at the breakdown for going off his feet at a ruck midway through the half and Morne Steyn confidently edged his side ahead again.
The terrier-like flanker Heinrich Brussow laid the foundation for the Boks' next score with a trademark steal in midfield. A sustained spell of pressure then followed with the hosts asking questions of the Wallabies before Morne Steyn took his personal tally to 15 points with a drop goal of his own.
The demand on the Wallabies to contest every breakdown continued to take its toll in the penalty count and a final warning to Moore preceded a long-range place kick from Frans Steyn which drifted just wide of the posts.
The Springboks' dominance up front brought further reward with captain John Smit allowed the room to cleverly chip the ball into the 22 where winger Lachie Turner failed to secure possession. His error allowed Victor Matfield to pounce for only his 6th Test try although Morne Steyn blotted his copybook by pushing the conversion wide of the posts.
Tempers flared as the half drew to a close with Giteau uncharacteristically sending Springboks scrum-half Fourie du Preez flying as he attempted to claim a high ball. The Wallabies' play-maker would have had no argument with the yellow card brandished by referee Alain Rolland and another followed just a minute later when blindside Brown was penalised for a blatant off-side offence. Morne Steyn turned the screw with his fifth penalty of the game to cement his side's advantage.
One final attack resulted in Pierre Spies going close but he lost the ball forward in the tackle just inches short of the line as the Wallabies scrambled desperately in defence.
Giteau returned to the fray early in the second half without any further change to the scoreboard and the Wallabies' patient play also paved the way for the re-introduction of Brown with the combined cost of their indiscretion just three points.
The Springboks struggled to find the intensity that served them so well in the first half but still had the indiscipline of the Wallabies and the boot of Morne Steyn to rely on, and the latter extended his side's lead with the first score of the second period.
The Wallabies maintained their expansive approach but a loose pass and a hefty fly-hack from Brussow switched the focus of the game and eventually led to an attacking 5m scrum for the Boks. But a determined defensive effort frustrated the home side and eventually forced the error allowing Giteau to relieve the pressure.
The Australians showed further signs of life just past the hour mark when the impressive replacement James O'Connor pounced on a cross-kick fumbled by Bryan Habana before sniping up the touchline. The ball was recycled and Nathan Sharpe forced his way over only to be held up by Boks hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
From the resulting scrum, Giteau danced his way through the Boks' defence before stretching to touch down for a try. He added the easy conversion to bring his side to within nine points but they were unable to eat further into that lead.
With the clock running down, Habana was tackled off the ball whilst giving chase to a kick through and stand-in skipper Juan Smith opted for the kick to the corner. His namesake George was the third Wallabies player sent to the sin bin for interfering at the following breakdown. Morne Steyn slotted the penalty - his seventh - to break the Springboks' record for penalties against the Wallabies.
The Wallabies went valiantly looking for a score that would give them a bonus point but another loose pass brought an end to their challenge and set the seal on South Africa's deserved victory.
The Springboks now embark on their away leg with two games in Australia and a final clash against New Zealand with their two title rivals set to face each other either side of those encounters starting in Sydney on August 22.
South Africa: Frans Steyn (Sharks); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Jaque Fourie (Lions), Jean De Villiers (Stormers), Bryan Habana (Bulls); Morne Steyn (Bulls), Fourie Du Preez (Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck Du Plessis (Sharks), John Smit (Sharks, capt), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls), Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Bulls)
Replacements: Chilliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Jannie Du Plessis (Sharks), Andries Bekker (Stormers), Danie Rossouw (Bulls), Ricky Januarie (Stormers), Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Adi Jacobs (Sharks)
Australia: A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies); L Turner (Waratahs), S Mortlock (Brumbies), B Barnes (Reds), D Mitchell (Western Force); M Giteau (Brumbies), L Burgess (Waratahs); B Robinson (Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), A Baxter (Waratahs), J Horwill (Reds), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Brown (Western Force), G Smith (Brumbies), W Palu (Waratahs).
Replacements: T Polota-Nau (Waratahs), B Alexander (Brumbies), D Mumm (Waratahs), D Pocock (Waratahs), W Genia (Western Force), P Hynes (Reds), J O'Connor (Western Force)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)