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The Rugby Championship

An annual competition involving the southern hemisphere’s top four rugby-playing nations – New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina. Known as the Tri Nations from 1996 to 2012, when the Pumas were invited to join the party.

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Springboks on right track despite Australia defeat, says de Villiers

After defeat to Australia, De Villiers optimistic ahead of daunting visit to leaders New Zealand

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 September, 2012, 1:41am

South African captain Jean de Villiers insists the Springboks are on the right track despite a narrow defeat to a resurgent Australia in their Rugby Championship test.

The Springboks led 13-3 at one stage in the first half but the Wallabies came from behind to win 26-19, a much-needed victory after last month's embarrassing 22-0 loss to New Zealand.

It was Australia's fifth win in a row over South Africa, themselves keen to make a statement after a disappointing 16-16 draw with Argentina in their previous outing in the four-nation tournament.

De Villiers said the result was disappointing, especially after his team had laid the foundations for a win, but that they would continue to improve as they gained more experience.

"I don't think that we can suddenly expect to be the greatest team in the world and just click and play fantastic rugby," he said. "We need to learn from the experiences, we need to grow as a team and that takes some time.

"We want to be winning every single game we play and those pressures from the media, from the fans, we feel them at times."

De Villiers said Wallabies veteran Nathan Sharpe "had more caps than our whole pack just about", which put things into perspective. "But we believe that we are on the right track. We believe that we played much better rugby today and hopefully we can keep on improving when we play next week as well," he said.

"It is a young team but it is test match rugby and you don't have a lot of time to grow at this level. We need to quickly rectify those mistakes."

The Springboks, who stand second in the Rugby Championship table with seven points, behind New Zealand (on 12), face a mammoth task against the all-conquering All Blacks in Dunedin this Saturday.

They have injury concerns, with winger Bryan Habana (ankle), who scored the only try against the Wallabies, and tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis (hamstring) both forced from the field. Eben Etzebeth has also been cited after appearing to headbutt Sharpe in the first half.

The Wallabies head to the Gold Coast to play Argentina on Saturday with major injury concerns of their own.

Stand-in skipper Will Genia will be sidelined for at least six months with a knee injury suffered late in Saturday's match. Original captain James Horwill (hamstring) and his replacement, David Pocock (knee), are already out for extended periods.

Sharpe, who originally announced he would retire earlier this year, is enjoying an extended farewell and took over the captaincy for the dying minutes against the Springboks.

Berrick Barnes, whose six-from-six effort with the boot helped the Wallabies run down the Springboks, appeared to suffer a calf injury late in the game and hobbled off, while man-of-the-match Sitaleki Timani also finished the match on the bench with a hamstring strain.

Hooker Stephen Moore was a late omission from the team due to a hamstring injury.

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