The Qantas Wallabies have opened their 2015 Rugby Championship campaign in style, reclaiming the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate with a last-gasp 24-20 victory at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing 20-17 with under a minute to play in the match, skipper Stephen Moore immediately pointed to the sideline after the Wallabies were are awarded a penalty deep inside the Springboks half.
Winning the ball from the lineout, the Wallabies kept their composure in the final seconds before powerhouse centre Tevita Kuridrani crashed over the line to steal victory for the home side in front of 37,633 delirious fans at Suncorp Stadium.
The Qantas Wallabies will now travel to Argentina to make it two from two on Saturday 25 July as they look to secure a second win in The Rugby Championship.
Qantas Wallabies Head Coach Michael Cheika was satisfied with the victory:
“We were nowhere near perfect, but we created something out of what we had.
“We were able to do it tonight and we were really happy for that. It was a good turnout for the fans and people can be proud of that.
“We’re often reminded that we’re sixth in the world and South Africa was number two, so for us to get away with the win. I’m really proud of that.”
The Qantas Wallabies put pressure on South Africa in the opening stages of the match with Michael Hooper leading a strong defensive charge as the Wallabies pushed up quickly against the Springboks.
The first points of the match should have gone to South Africa through young flyhalf Handre Pollard with a penalty. However the ball bounced off the posts allowing Adam Ashley-Cooper to clear the ball and get the Wallabies out of trouble.
Australia was able to maintain possession and some brilliant work by flyhalf Quade Cooper allowed Australia to poke holes in South Africa’s defence well within their 22. AS the pressure continued to mount, Will Skeleton was unable to maintain possession in a tackle and South Africa cleared their lines.
A break from South Africa’s Willie Le Roux allowed South Africa to attack Australia on their try line. The men in gold moved quickly off the line to hold up the Springboks.
The visitors looked certain to score with a four man overlap out wide when flyhalf, Pollard made his second major error of the night, dropping the ball forward for a knock on.
The first points of the match came in the 15th minute as Pollard made amends as he slotted a conversion when Michael Hooper penalised for being offside at a lineout taking the score to 0-3.
Both nations continue to trade blows with neither able to establish a clear level of dominance in the contact zone. South Africa extended their lead to 0-6 after a poor Wallabies scrum where they were over powered by South Africa.
Australia had the opportunity to counter in the 28th minute when the Springboks were penalised for illegal entry at the breakdown through Quade Cooper. The ball edged to the right leaving the score at 0-6.
Adam Ashley-Cooper scored his 31st Test try next to the posts when a decoy run by Tevita Kuridrani distracted the South African defence allowing AAC to score next to the posts.
The successful conversion by Cooper gave Australia the lead for the first time in the match taking the score to 7-6.
South Africa countered with a try of their own just before halftime with Handre Pollard kicking for the corner allowing Eben Etzebeth to score.
Pollard converted the try to take the score to 7-13 in favour of the visitors.
The men in gold were tested again in defence as the half time siren echoed throughout Suncorp Stadium with South Africa hammering the Wallabies for three minutes. Australia’s defence held strong and the Wallabies were able to get out of gaol and head to the sheds.
South Africa shot out of the blocks at the start of the second half scoring their second try in the 45th minute. A brilliant run by Jesse Kriel was the difference as the quick South African sliced through the Wallabies defence to score in the corner. Handre Pollard converted to take the score to 7-20.
With replacements being made through James Horwill and David Pocock, the Wallabies had a new breath of life at the breakdown and started to gain some momentum against South Africa.
Australia narrowed South Africa’s lead through the boot of Quade Cooper with South Africa infringing at the breakdown taking the score to 10-20.
The Wallabies scrum improved throughout the match with Greg Holmes playing his first Test for Australia in 2,849 days making his mark as he entered the fray in the second half.
As the match edged closer to full time the Wallabies continued to attack the Springboks in their 22. A strong Australian scrum provided the catalyst for the Wallabies to score their second try as Michael Hooper used his strength to cross the white line.
Quade Cooper scored the conversion to take the score to 17-20.
The leader of the foreign legion Matt Giteau had an opportunity to level the game with moments to go from 40 metres from goal. The ball had the accuracy but just fell short of the distance as he fell beneath the black dot.
With literally seconds to go in the match Captain Stephen Moore had the opportunity with a penalty to level the match at 20-20 with a kickable penalty.
Scoffing at the suggestion, Australia went for the win with a line out to go for the try. For phase after phase Australia attacked South Africa’s line, with replacement flyhalf Matt Tommua constantly causing headaches for the Springboks.
Eventually it was man of the match, Tevita Kuridrani who proved the difference as the towering centre broke his way through several tackles to crash the ball over the line. Several tense minutes followed with the TMO, as every Australian in the crowd held their breath but eventually referee Nigel Owens awarded try, bringing jubilation to the men in gold.
The Wallabies now head to Argentina to take on Los Pumas on Saturday 25 July.