ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Australia scored a try in the second minute and withstood a series of South African challenges to beat the World Cup-champion Springboks 25-17 in a Rugby Championship match on Saturday.
Winger Marika Koroibete helped the Wallabies continue their home domination of South Africa in the afternoon match at Adelaide Oval. The Fijian-born flyer pulled off a miracle try-saving move in the first half and scored a try in the second as the Wallabies bounced back from their loss to Argentina two weeks ago.
Fraser McReight, who has replaced skipper Michael Hooper, who is absent on mental health leave, also crossed in each half in a dominant display that also saw the flanker make a crucial breakdown turnover when the Springboks looked destined to cross.
Flyhalf Noah Lolesio had his best game for Australia in his 13th test and set up McReight’s second try. The 22-year-old Lolesio had a hand in each of the three tries and Australia coach Dave Rennie praised his game management.
“We're really happy for Noah . . . we had confidence that he could do the job and I thought he was excellent,” Rennie said. “We talked a lot about playing flatter and playing on top of the offensive line and smart kicking options and so it was good to see that from him today.”
Lolesio hadn’t played since a below-par showing in Australia’s third-test loss to England in Sydney and admitted he was nervous heading into the match.
“I’ve been through a shaky couple of weeks for myself after that English game and I probably took three, four weeks to have a solid look at my game and how I wanted to approach it,” Lolesio said. “I was a little bit nervous heading to this game to be honest."
With the Wallabies a man down when winger Tom Wright was yellow-carded after repeated team infringements, the Springboks were looking for their first try late in the first half. Makazole Mapimpi looked a certainty until Koroibete raced 40 meters from his own wing and barged into the South African winger, sending him flying over the sideline.
The Wallabies were able to take a 10-3 lead into halftime, with the visitors also forced to play the opening 10 minutes of the second half without Faf de Klerk. The halfback was yellow-carded after clipping the head of his opposite Nic White.
Man-of-the-match Koroibete crossed in the 46th minute when he wrong-footed Pollard and the margin was out to 22-3 10 minutes later when McReight backed up a Lolesio flick pass.
The Springboks prevented the Wallabies from collecting a bonus point when flanker Kwagga Smith scored twice in the final six minutes.
South Africa skipper Siya Kolisi said he was disappointed with his side’s inability to turn pressure into points in the first half.
“They played really well today from the get-go," Kolisi said. “The game’s about small margins. Every opportunity they got, they took it and they backed themselves and today it didn’t go our way in that department.”
Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber lamented his team’s inability to take its chances, but also said the Wallabies often showed “desperation.”
“I thought Marika’s tackle showed the desperation of not just him but there was a couple of desperation tackles on their try line,” Nienaber said. “A lot of credit has to go to Wallabies, they really put their bodies on the line.”
South Africa has not won in Australia since 2013.
“I'm very proud of the effort we showed today," Australia captain James Slipper said. “We started the game well and that put us in a good position, We scored when we got given those opportunities.
“Normally the team that wins performs in those big moments. Now we need to back that up next week in Sydney."
Argentina kept pace with the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship standings with a 25-18 win over New Zealand at Christchurch in the other match Saturday. Argentina and Australia, with 2-1 records, have nine points each, but the Pumas are in first place with a better points differential. South Africa and New Zealand are both 1-2.
Next weekend, the tournament continues when the Wallabies play the Springboks at Sydney and New Zealand hosts Argentina at Hamilton.
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