By Nick Mulvenney
Tevita Kuridrani scored a last gasp try to give Australia a dramatic 24-20 victory over South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener at Lang Park on Saturday.
The centre crashed over the line in a scrum of bodies after the hooter had sounded and it fell to the television match official to adjudge that he had grounded the ball.
The Springboks had looked like securing a win on the back of a brilliant defensive effort and tries from lock Eben Etzebeth and debutant centre Jesse Kriel as well as 10 points from the boot of flyhalf Handre Pollard.
Australia stayed in the contest, though, with a first half try from winger Adam Ashley-Cooper and flanker Michael Hooper got them within range of the victory with another six minutes from time.
It was a first win in four Tests for Australia and will give Wallabies fans hope that coach Michael Cheika can construct a competitive side for the World Cup in England later this year.
South Africa, who were without a string of top players and lost skipper Victor Matfield in the 18th minute to a hamstring strain, will count themselves unlucky to leave Australia without a point as they head home to face the All Blacks next week.
The experimental Springbok back row of Schalk Burger, Francois Louw and Marcell Coetzee was outstanding, defending manfully and forcing turnover after turnover at the breakdown.
The visitors looked assured and well organised from the start and although Pollard hit the upright with his first penalty attempt, he made no mistake with the next two to give them a 6-0 lead in the 25th minute.
The Wallabies were finding holes in the defensive line but were struggling to exploit them as the South African loose forwards were that much quicker to the ball.
They finally got on the scoreboard in the 34th minute when Matt Giteau took the ball at first receiver and his no-look inside pass sent Ashley-Cooper on his way to the line, the experienced winger touching down at the second attempt.
The lead lasted just four minutes, however, before a Pollard cross-kick was batted back by winger Bryan Habana and fullback Willie le Roux’s pass allowed Etzebeth to touch down in the corner.
Pollard converted to send the Springboks into halftime 13-7 in front and they moved further ahead four minutes after the break when Kriel weaved his way through three defenders to score in the left-hand corner.
Flanker David Pocock then came onto the pitch for his first Test in three years to join Michael Hooper in the back row and the Wallabies were immediately more competitive in the tackle area.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper missed a penalty with a poor kick after the Wallabies pack had won a rare decision at the scrum, however, and the Springboks continued to defend fiercely and contest every breakdown.
The Wallabies continued to hammer away at the wall of green shirts, though, and finally found a way through six minutes from time when Hooper barged over the line to set up the dramatic finale.