Springboks, Wallabies draw in Perth
Gavin Rich
September 09, 2017

South Africa and Australia continued their long tradition of playing out close games in Perth when they drew 23-all in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship test match at the NIB Stadium on Saturday.

The Springboks were on the attack at the end of the game and will have felt disappointed that they did not close out the win but ultimately what cost them was a sloppy and nervous start.

The Boks were behind by 10 points when Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polotu-Nau dotted down off a driving maul after 46 minutes so they did well to come back and lead with 13 minutes to go.

It was mainly through their forwards asserting the dominance that was expected of them but lacking before that the Boks came back to the extent that in the end they may have felt unlucky not to pick up four log points for the win rather than two for a draw.

To be fair, the ever wily Wallabies stunted the Bok intent in the first half by engaging their usual clever tactics in the scrums, and effectively avoided the set-pieces that hurt them later in the game. It took a long time in the first half for a scrum to be completed.

The Boks had been poor for the first 50 minutes with way too many elementary errors letting them down, but there is an old adage that possession is nine tenths of the law and that was proven in this game. In the first half the Boks just never had the ball to play with but in the second half they won enough possession to make them look like a different team and force the Wallabies to play most of the second half in their own territory.

The turning point was a break-out from the Boks that was sparked by a Siya Kolisi break and then carried on by a strong run from the impressive Jan Serfontein. The centre should probably have passed to the unmarked Courtnall Skosan, but the territory gain led to the penalty that enabled Elton Jantjies to bring the Boks back to within a converted try of their opponents.

As has tended to be the case this year, the bench made a big difference for the Boks, with Steven Kitshoff, Jean-Luc du Preez, Lood de Jager and Francois Hougaard all making the desired impact when they came on. By the hour mark the South African pack was dominant and it wasn’t a surprise when a driving maul ate up more than 20 meters before Malcolm Marx drove over the line.

If the Boks do lament the two log points that eluded them they might look at the few metres that separated Jaco Kriel from the tryline after another great attack off turn-over ball. It was close, but the Wallaby scramble defence was good. However, the Bok scrum was by now completely dominant and although the Australians had a put in under their posts their scrum was dismantled and conceded a penalty that Jantjies kicked to put the Boks ahead 23-20.

There might have been some debate over whether perhaps the Boks should have opted to scrum again and possibly force a penalty try but with 13 minutes to go in such a close game skipper Eben Etzebeth made the right decision to kick the easy penalty that put his team back in front.

The Boks’ discipline was much better in the second half than it was in the first but they conceded a penalty straight after the restart following the Elton Jantjies kick that allowed Bernard Foley to kick a three pointer from long range that made it 23-all.

The first half was easily the worst 40 minutes the Boks have produced in 2017, with unforced errors costing them, as did indiscipline. Perhaps the half was summed up by the way it ended, with Jantjies missing touch from a penalty deep in his own half and the Wallabies winning a penalty when Coenie Oosthuizen, who was otherwise outstanding and tackled everything that moved, was lazy in rolling away.

Foley nailed the kick from in front and it meant that instead of going to the break level at 10-all the Boks had to concede the psychological advantage to the Aussies, who led 13-10. It was no less than the Wallabies deserved, for they led in virtually every relevant statistic, with the Boks enjoying less than 40% possession, being forced to make more than twice as many tackles, and running less than a third of the running metres that Australia did.

It was debatable though whether the Australians were that good. Instead it was the Boks who were poor. They looked nervy, and while on several occasions they forced turn-overs, they would frequently ruin that good work by spilling the ball forward. The game had no flow and was the sort of arm-wrestle we tend to see in humid Durban in February or March.

The Wallabies started nervily too, with Foley not making the 10 metre line with his kick, but an early engagement meant the Boks failed to take advantage by making the anticipated statement in the first scrum. Indeed, it was a quarter of an hour before a scrum was completed, with a second Bok scrum also conceding a free kick for early engagement.

By contrast, the home lineout was sloppy, particularly when the Boks, with the formidable Pieter-Steph du Toit excelling in the role, elected to contest the Australian ball. The Boks had done well to concede just six penalties in both of the matches against Argentina but in this game they conceded too many for comfort under pressure and it is an area they will have to improve on before next week’s clash with the All Blacks in Albany.

One interesting dilemma that coach Allister Coetzee will face before that match is what to do about his No5 lock selection. Franco Smith was brilliant in the first five tests of 2017 but Du Toit, when given his first opportunity to start, cut an immense presence. The hard working lock was all over the field and all over the Aussies and was undeniably the best Bok player on the day.

It was a turnover that he affected that set up the first half try for the Boks, with Ross Cronje showing quick thinking in spinning the ball to the right to Raymond Rhule who had an open channel in front of him. Rhule’s kick was not gathered by Wallaby captain Michael Hooper and Jesse Kriel touched the ball down to put the Boks into a 10-3 lead.

The Wallabies struck back immediately through some excellent work at the restart from Israel Folau that led to a try for Kurtley Beale and, with the help of a Jantjies penalty miss and then the missed kick at touch, the Aussies ended the half the stronger of the two teams. It was a different story in the second half.


South Africa 23 – Tries: Jesse Kriel and Malcolm Marx; Conversions: Elton Jantjies 2; Penalties: Elton Jantjies 3.

Australia 23 – Tries: Kurtley Beale and Tatafu Polotu-Nau; Conversions: Bernard Foley 2; Penalties: Bernard Foley 3.

The Castle Lager Rugby Championship
Saturday, August 18 2018
17:05 - South Africa vs Argentina
Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
Saturday, August 25 2018
21:10 - Argentina vs South Africa
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza
Saturday, September 08 2018
12:05 - Australia vs South Africa
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday, September 15 2018
09:35 - New Zealand vs South Africa
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, September 29 2018
17:05 - South Africa vs Australia
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, PE
Saturday, October 06 2018
17:05 - South Africa vs New Zealand
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Castle Lager Outgoing Tour
Friday, November 02 2018
00:00 - England vs South Africa
Twickenham, London
Saturday, November 10 2018
00:00 - France vs South Africa
Stade de France, Paris
Saturday, November 17 2018
00:00 - Scotland vs South Africa
Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Saturday, November 24 2018
00:00 - Wales vs South Africa
Principality Stadium, Cardiff

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