x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

The slump for Springboks continues

Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, hailed his side's defensive strength as South Africa crashed to their third successive Tri Nations defeat in a bad-tempered clash.

South Africa's Victor Matfield hangs on to the ankle of Australia's Will Genia.
South Africa's Victor Matfield hangs on to the ankle of Australia's Will Genia.

BRISBANE, Australia // Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, hailed his side's defensive strength after they consigned South Africa to their third successive Tri Nations defeat in a bad-tempered clash yesterday. The Springboks again had trouble with discipline and were twice reduced to 14 men: centre Jaque Fourie was sin-binned in the second minute for a dangerous tackle on Richard Brown and prop BJ Botha was shown a yellow card in the second half for killing the ball at the back of the Australian ruck only metres from the South African line.

Matt Giteau kicked five penalties and set up a pivotal try as Australia won 30-13 against the defending champions The Wallabies led 23-3 before the Springboks crossed in the 62nd and 72nd minutes through Fourie and prop Gurthro Steenkamp to get back to 23-13 with eight minutes remaining. But Will Genia, the Australia scrum-half, darted over between two tacklers from the back of a close-range ruck in the 75th to seal the win in Australia's first match of this year's competition.

"Very happy with the performance, a lot of stuff to be proud of - particularly the defence," Deans said. "They were desperate, they threw everything at us and we hung on." Deans said it was frustrating Australia did not convert more of their scoring opportunities, but was impressed with the commitment at the breakdown and the consistent supply of possession. "We didn't profit as much as we would have liked," he said, "but we kept at it - it was good."

The South Africans conceded 63 points in two losses to the All Blacks in New Zealand and the defeat to Australia means they did not pick up a point in a three-Test road trip. It also extended a long drought in Brisbane, where the Springboks have not beaten the Wallabies since 1971. New Zealand lead the Tri Nations on 10 points from two bonus-point wins and have their first away match of the competition next week against Australia in Melbourne. The All Black coaching trio of Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen were in the stands in Brisbane as they prepared their strategy for that match.

The Springboks did get a numerical advantage in the second half and capitalised on it, with Fourie barging over while Quade Cooper, the Wallabies fly-half, was in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. Steenkamp burrowed over from a well-worked lineout move for the Springboks 10 minutes later but Ruan Pienaar failed to convert either of the Springboks tries. In an attacking match with limited kicking in general play, the Australian loose forwards provided the difference with their superior play at the breakdown.

David Pocock was able to turn over the Springboks ball and Rocky Elsom, the captain, was strong on and off the ball, allowing the Australians to run the bigger South Africans ragged. Giteau landed four penalties to give the Australians a buffer but the Wallabies were not able to cross the South African line until seconds before the break. Elsom won a lineout against the throw and, a few phases later, Giteau drifted across field and got a pass away amid three defenders for Drew Mitchell, who juggled the ball before he touched down to give Australia a 17-3 lead at halftime.

With three home matches remaining, Peter de Villiers, the Springboks coach, still has hopes South Africa can retain the title but knows it will depend on results between Australia and New Zealand. But he deflected a reporter's question about his fitness to coach South Africa to next year's World Cup. "I think you must ask my bosses," he said. "We didn't get the result that we badly wanted. "We put some good plays together but we didn't capitalise from that. And in the game the Wallabies were quite sound today, hard at the ball.

"It's early days. [Our Tri Nations] will all depend on the results going forward." * AP