South Africa 32
PERTH - A clueless Australia has slumped to a record 32-25 Tri-Nations loss to South Africa on home soil to virtually hand the Springboks the 2009 Tri-Nations title.
The Wallabies were blown away from the opening whistle at Subiaco Oval as they suffered a fourth straight loss this series, and a sixth successive Tri-Nations defeat dating back to last August.
The rampant world champions ran in four tries for a bonus point which puts them nine points clear of New Zealand with two matches each to play.
Australia scored two consolation tries to Matt Giteau and Lachie Turner in the last five minutes to add some respectability to the scoreline but nothing could hide the fact they were completely outmuscled and outplayed.
The unbeaten Springboks shelved their effective kick-chase game to run the ball and dominate the first half with quick phase play and set up their fourth straight win with a 22-6 halftime lead.
South Africa were simply too quick, too strong, too smart and far more precise and clinical than the home team.
By contrast the Wallabies willing game was mistake-ridden, particularly at the key moments inside both 22s.
A solid scrummaging effort - reaping three penalties - was well and truly offset by more turmoil in the lineouts.
Three times Australia paid dearly for poor throws to the back within a five minute period early in the second half after a jinking Giteau try had put them back into the contest at 22-13 down.
Hooker Stephen Moore paid the price for two bad throws which eventually resulted in Bryan Habana crossing for his second try and the Springboks securing a four-try bonus point.
It gave them a 16-point advantage and sealed just their third win from 17 matches in Australia since the Tri-Nations kicked off in 1996.
Their 32 points was their biggest score away to the Wallabies, eclipsing the 28-9 win in 1921.
Rookie fullback James O'Connor stood up to the pressure of the challenge while Rocky Elsom and Benn Robinson were also strong for Australia and replacement five-eighth Quade Cooper added spark in the last 15 minutes.
Springboks halfback Fourie du Preeze, who opened the scoring by taking a quick tap and catching Luke Burgess napping, was a deserved man of the match.
No 8 Richard Brown set the tone for the Wallabies by dropping South Africa's first kick over the touch line. From the lineout, centre Jean de Villiers broke the defensive line.
The Springboks shot to a 12-0 lead after just 10 minutes when Jaque Fourie crossed untouched after Giteau was terribly exposed in defence from a midfield scrum.
Making matters worse for the Australians, five-eighth Giteau also missed two penalty goal attempts before finally landing one in the 28th minute for a 15-3 deficit.
Giteau finished with a personal haul of 20 points but the Australian attack looked more dangerous when he moved to inside centre and the elusive Cooper was injected into the playmaking role.
South Africa need one more point on the competition table to ensure they win the Tri-Nations but it will take a gargantuan effort by the All Blacks to sneak to a fifth straight title.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans denied he was surprised by the Springboks' effective change of tactics.
"They've always been a side that's been capable of playing any which way they choose but their first priority is to win the Tri-Nations and they have done it and they have done it convincingly," he said.
Deans defended some of his team's basic errors due to the pressure brought onto to them by South Africa.
"Springboks don't make it easy ... and they punish you when you turn it over."
Deans was particularly upset the Wallabies conceded two tries from scrums and blamed poor talk in defence.
"It shouldn't happen."
While Deans was disturbed at conceding the tries to Fourie and Habana's second, both from Du Preeze passes after scooting off the scrum, the Springboks were baffled why they were often penalised at the set piece.
Captain John Smit described the treatment they received from referee Bryce Lawrence, who awarded Australia 15 to just four for the Spiringboks, as "bizarre".
"It was a bit of a lottery out there to be honest and sadly the numbers weren't coming up for us," Smit said.
South Africa 32 (Bryan Habana 2, Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, tries; Morne Steyn 3 conversions, 2 penalties)
Australia 25 (Matt Giteau 2, Lachie Turner tries; Giteau 2 penalties, 2 conversions). Halftime: 22-6.
- AAPBy Jim Morton