Rugby: Habana hat-trick sinks Wallabies

Australia's Dominic Shipperley is tackled by South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira, right, and teammate Jannie du Plessis.  Photo / AP
Australia's Dominic Shipperley is tackled by South Africa's Tendai Mtawarira, right, and teammate Jannie du Plessis. Photo / AP

Australia's change-room resembled a casualty ward as they were battered on and off the scoreboard in their 31-8 Rugby Championship loss to South Africa.

With ageless Springboks winger Bryan Habana scoring a hat-trick, any hope of Australia cracking their first win at the Springboks' strong-hold Loftus Versfeld fell flat with three players, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes and Radike Samo suffering what appeared to be serious injuries.

Digby Ioane was also forced off in the second half with a knee problem, with the Wallabies so short of backs they had to resort to shifting halfback Nick Phipps to the wing.

Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau also left late in the game with the Australians forced to play with only 14 men with uncontested scrums after they had used their seven substitutions.

Ashley-Cooper was knocked out cold when his head hit the knee of South Africa fullback Zane Kirchner as he made a try-saving tackle just over a minute before half-time and was taken from the field on a medi-cab.

Wallabies officials said he was awake but concussed.

They lost Barnes 10 minutes earlier with a chest injury while Samo suffered a shoulder injury early in the second half.

The Australians, who were looking to extend their winning streak over South Africa to six and win for the first time at Loftus, were never in the hunt.

They trailed 14-3 at half-time, which could have been much greater but for the home side missing four penalty kicks while they had two tries disallowed by the television match official.

Wallabies five-eighth Kurtley Beale failed to spark their attack with his team smothered by hungry Springboks defence.

Their kicking game was again poor, while they missed too many tackles in a disappointing outing all around which will again turn up the pressure on coach Robbie Deans.

While Kirchner's foot touched the line when he was tackled by Ashley-Cooper, he had already opened the scoring at the 20 minute mark when the Springboks sent the ball wide to the charging fullback.

Francois Louw also barrelled across the line while the Wallabies were temporarily down to 14 players with prop James Slipper yellow-carded for a professional foul.

Mike Harris scored the Wallabies only try of the match.

South Africa claimed the first four-try bonus point of the Rugby Championship.

- AAP

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