Rugby: Wallabies deliver another reality check for Boks with second straight win

Wallabies players celebrate winning the Mandela Plate during the Round 4 Rugby Championship match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane Sept 18, 2021.
Wallabies players celebrate winning the Mandela Plate during the Round 4 Rugby Championship match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane Sept 18, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BRISBANE (REUTERS) - Australia breathed life into their Rugby Championship campaign with a bonus-point 30-17 win over South Africa on Saturday (Sept 18) to puncture the world champions' aura for the second time in a week to help strip them of their No. 1 ranking.

The Wallabies’ win left the All Blacks needing a 15-point victory over Argentina to grab top spot, and Ian Foster’s men duly delivered in a 36-13 defeat of Argentina in the late match of the double-header at Lang Park.

The All Blacks’ fourth successive win in the competition knocked out Australia and Argentina, while South Africa will need to capture big bonus-point wins over the New Zealanders in the last two matches to deny them the silverware.

Australia and Argentina’s remaining clashes will be dead rubbers but Wallabies fans will be pleased with the improvement shown under coach Dave Rennie.

“I’m really proud of our guys because we wanted to back up last week’s performance with another good one,” he said.

“A lot of courage tonight and pretty clinical when it counted.”

Running game

Having upset the Springboks 28-26 on the Gold Coast last Sunday with a Quade Cooper penalty after the siren, the Wallabies' running game shone in the Lang Park twilight as centre Len Ikitau and winger Marika Koroibete each scored two tries.

Koroibete's second put the Australians 13 points up with 12 minutes left and they defended brilliantly to win two turnovers in front of their posts to protect the lead to the finish.

South Africa managed one try, through centre Lukhanyo Am shortly after half-time, but drew two yellow cards in a flat performance before they head into back-to-back Tests against New Zealand.

"We talked a lot about going back-to-back here," said Australia captain Michael Hooper.

"We absolutely love playing up here in front of the crowd... Couldn't be happier right now."

Australia move up to third in the world rankings ahead of the two Tests against Argentina.

Untidy start

In a scrappy start, South Africa scrum-half Faf de Klerk was yellow-carded for slowing the ball in a ruck in the 13th minute and Ikitau was quick to capitalise with Australia's first try a minute later.

Scrum-half Nic White shot a cut-out pass to a charging Ikitau, who beat two defenders in a 10-metre burst to the line.

Barnstorming prop Taniela Tupou then crashed through the South African line, paving the way for a Koroibete off-load that set up Ikitau's second try at the right corner seven minutes later.

De Klerk's return from his 10 minutes in the sin-bin rejuvenated the South Africans as his pinpoint box kicks pressured the hosts.

Wallabies full-back Tom Banks came off clutching his forearm in the 28th minute and flanker Lachie Swinton came off with a yellow card seven minutes from halftime after a high tackle on South Africa's No. 8 Duane Vermeulen.

Handre Pollard slotted a fourth penalty after Australia were caught offside to trim the lead to 15-12 at half-time.

With Swinton still off the pitch, a de Klerk grubber kick at the right corner allowed Am to touch down and snatch the lead less than two minutes after the restart.

Cooper swiped the advantage back for Australia with his second penalty before Koroibete took control of the game with a two-try burst in six minutes.

Taking an audacious look-away flick pass from Tupou, Koroibete thundered down the left wing for the first of his tries in the 62nd minute.

A Reece Hodge turnover followed by a Samu Kerevi off-load to Pete Samu ended in a brilliant counter-attacking try to Koroibete on the same left wing.

Cooper missed the second conversion but Australia defended solidly to protect the 13-point lead, repelling waves of attacks in their 22 to complete a confidence-building win.