BRISBANE // South Africa's plan to defeat Australia yesterday, win the Tri Nations trophy in the process, and then have the next five days sunbathing on the Gold Coast in Queensland was left in ruins yesterday. The combination of a revitalised Wallabies side, inspired by the half-back axis of Will Genia and Matt Giteau and a colossal display from loose-head prop Ben Robinson, and a complacent Springboks side resulted in a shock result at the Suncorp Stadium.
South Africa's first defeat in this season's competition means the series could go down to the wire. The Boks now head to Hamilton in New Zealand next Saturday knowing a defeat could present the All Blacks with the chance to retain the trophy. The Springboks attempted to play down the potential significance of the 15-point defeat, which could have been worse had winger Bryan Habana not made two try-saving tackles, but coach Peter De Villiers will be disappointed at his side's failure to cross the try-line.
De Villiers, who declared his World Cup winners were on the verge of greatness in midweek, was forced to be humble in defeat. He had no option but to concede that his much-vaunted team were completely outplayed. He went as far as to call the home side "brilliant". "I thought at times today our execution was brilliant, but we weren't clinical in finishing it off," he said. "You do get those days, where the bounce of the ball, and the momentum swings against you.
"The Wallabies used their chances so well. This is not a night for excuses, because they were brilliant keeping us under pressure. Yes, they were brilliant." As de Villiers lauded the Wallabies, captain John Smit kept peering at the ceiling of the media room, clearly exasperated that an easy chance of winning the Tri Nations two rounds early had been squandered. "Our intensity wasn't where it should have been, and I cannot pinpoint why," he said.
"It was a game where we had moments of brilliance, but we couldn't get them together. "The only thing we can take out of it is, I suppose, that they beat us at our own game. They did what we usually do, but they did it better than us." Victor Matfield, the world's premier second-row forward, was frustrated by the outcome . "What infuriated us was that they beat us at our own game," he said. As for Robbie Deans, the long suffering Wallabies coach, it was a moment of utter relief.
After six consecutive Tri Nations defeats, Deans' bold policy of playing the youngsters at last reaped dividends, especially Genia, who had a fine game at scrum half. Deans said a critical factor in their win was that the Wallabies had succeeded in taking the Springboks out of their comfort zone and left them always playing catch-up on the scoreboard. "The boys kept playing for 80 minutes, which was great, and they always kept their heads up," he said.
"This is something we have been toiling away at." email@example.com