x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Penalty count only blemish in Boks title charge

South Africa have one hand on the Tri Nations trophy for the first time since 2004.

JOHANNESBURG // South Africa have one hand on the Tri Nations trophy for the first time since 2004. The SpringBoks' emphatic 32-25 defeat of Australia in Perth on Saturday was just their third win in Australia stretched across 11 seasons, putting them within touching distance of the title. For the Wallabies, it was another disastrous performance: their sixth defeat on the bounce in the tournament, the last four having come this season.

Scoring four tries also allowed the Boks to come away with a bonus point. A win now over the Wallabies next weekend in Brisbane will seal the Tri Nations title as the Boks need just two points from their next two fixtures to secure the trophy. Saturday's game was remarkable match for two reasons: dogged by criticism of their "boring" play, the Boks threw off the shackles to produce a high-tempo game marked by splendid attacking play and accurate tactical kicking.

Australia, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically harried into mistake after mistake and their handling was woeful. The win was established thanks to an outstanding first half that saw South Africa race into a 15-0 lead after just 17 minutes, with Fourie du Preez scoring the first try in his 50th Test and Jaque Fourie another shortly after. If the Boks' attacking game was fluid and powerful, their defence was plain frightening. The Australians were knocked back in the tackles as the Boks tore chunks out of them.

It meant the ball quality presented to the home team was scratchy, although the exception came at scrum time where Australia's superiority at the set-piece was undeniable. Time and again the Boks were shoved back but the Wallabies failed to utilise this advantage to any great effect. "We didn't have the base we wanted, especially in the scrums, where we were nailed, and I don't understand why," said the Boks coach Peter de Villiers, who was left to reflect on a 15-4 penalty count against his team.

Having unusually opted to arrive later than usual in Australia, one of the Boks' methods of reducing jetlag included going to bed at 2am in Perth. Captain John Smit claimed it worked. "We had a short week and you could see the energy of the guys in the first 50 minutes," he said. "We went into defensive mode in the last 30 minutes, but got the result we wanted." For the rematch, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has promised to make changes to a side that he is still nurturing , although he said they will not be sweeping.

"We don't want to expose everyone all at once," Deans said. "You can say 'look to the future, this is where we'll be in five years, let's go there now'. "But you can actually burn the future if you don't manage the arrivals. Tampering for tampering's sake is not appropriate to that end." cvanderberg@thenational.ae