Rugby: Wallabies fall to Springboks

South African Willie le Roux, left, scores a try as Australian Christian Lealiifano, right, try to stop him during the rugby Championship Test game played in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo / AP.
South African Willie le Roux, left, scores a try as Australian Christian Lealiifano, right, try to stop him during the rugby Championship Test game played in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo / AP.

South Africa beat Australia 28-8 to retain hope of wrestling the Rugby Championship title away from New Zealand, although the Springboks were ruing missing out on a possibly valuable four-try bonus point.

South Africa scored 23 unanswered points in the first half after an early Wallabies penalty, but couldn't maintain that momentum at Newlands.

Hooker Adriaan Strauss and fullback Zane Kirchner went over for tries inside 15 minutes against a creaking Wallabies defense and South Africa led 23-3 after 32 minutes. Yet wing Willie le Roux crossed for the third try and South Africa's next points only in the 72nd and despite scrambling desperately at the end, the home team didn't find the fourth try that might have boosted its title chances.

World champion New Zealand played Argentina late Saturday, after which the Springboks would know what they need to do when the two top-ranked teams meet at Johannesburg's Ellis Park in a mouthwatering tournament decider next weekend.

For most of the second half at Newlands, a battling Australia, outplayed almost everywhere, held up the South Africans while never threatening to stop a losing run at the Cape Town ground that dates to 1992. The Wallabies then pounced for a late consolation score when a cross-kick found debutant Chris Feauai-Sautia free on the left flank to touch down in the 78th over 70 minutes after the Australians' first points.

South Africa's players also didn't celebrate the victory as eagerly as they might have despite successive wins over Australia to win the Nelson Mandela Plate.

Morne Steyn kicked 13 points in his 50th test for the Boks, who controlled the entire first half and most of the match. Strauss, starting in place of Bismarck du Plessis, powered over in the 13th minute from a succession of forward drives, and Kirchner cruised in two minutes later in a sweeping backline move from deep in their half as South Africa shrugged off Christian Leali'ifano's seventh-minute penalty.

But in a subdued second 40, and hampered maybe by the sin-binning of lock Flip van der Merwe right on halftime and a later yellow card to No. 8 Duane Vermeulen, South Africa never hit top gear again and the Wallabies won back some respect despite sinking to a sixth straight defeat at Newlands and a fourth loss out of five in the Rugby Championship under struggling new coach Ewen McKenzie.

Australia also had two players sent to the sin-bin.

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South Africa 28 (Adriaan Strauss, Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux tries; Morne Steyn 2 conversions, 3 penalties), Australia 8 (Chris Feauai-Sautia try; Christian Leali'ifano penalty). HT: 23-3.

-AP

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