Rugby: Deans hails combative qualities of Wallabies

Australia 14

South Africa 9

Australian coach Robbie Deans praised the resilience of his team after they overturned a 6-0 halftime deficit to defeat the most capped Springboks team of all time at Kings Park yesterday.

With the World Cup less than a month away, Deans said the win was ideal.

"In terms of preparation there's no doubt it's great. We played against the most experienced Bok side tonight on their home soil and [it was] their current World Cup selection, essentially."

Deans said aggressive defence had been crucial for the Wallabies.

"Against these blokes you can't duck. You have to front up physically," he said. "I was proud of the resilience we showed. We created opportunities and didn't finish them. It would have been easy for the group to go into decline but they stuck at it, they were good in the contact and I believe we deserved the result."

Captain Rocky Elsom said his team's work ethic carried them through. "Things didn't go our way early on but we fought back. We stuck to what we knew and I'm very happy to come away with a win."

The Springboks looked the better team in the first half and led at the break despite playing into a brisk wind. Fullback Francois Steyn landed a long-range penalty and five-eighths Butch James a more conventional goal.

But the Wallabies made a blistering start to the second half and within eight minutes had snatched the lead through a penalty by wing James O'Connor and a first international try by centre Pat McCabe.

Although James put South Africa ahead again with another penalty, the visitors dominated the closing stages and were good value for a win sealed by two more O'Connor penalties as rain swept across the ground.

But Springbok coach Peter de Villiers claimed: "We lost the game on the scoreboard only."

He said the Springboks were unlucky when a possible try by Jaque Fourie was disallowed because it was ruled the centre had knocked on, while Australia's try came when Steyn suffered a hamstring injury which left the team a man short on defence.

De Villiers said the Springboks squandered a string of chances.

Captain John Smit admitted it was a disappointing result.

"It's a horrible test to lose because we felt we had a reasonable amount of control. We had sufficient turnover produced by reasonably good defence for a chance, but we didn't use those turnovers as well as we could have."

Smit ended his last international at his home-town ground with an injured right arm but said "It's nothing that Elastoplast can't fix."

- AFP

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