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, before the Pumas were invited to join the party.
Win over Wallabies sets South Africa up for New Zealand clash
Coach Heyneke Meyer said South Africa must become more clinical finishers if they hope to beat New Zealand in Soweto this weekend.
The Springboks and the All Blacks square up at the 90,000-capacity Soccer City stadium, where late tries by flanker Richie McCaw and fullback Israel Dagg saw the visitors snatch a 29-22 victory two years ago.
South Africa will enter the final-round Rugby Championship clash with their confidence boosted by a five-try, 31-8 victory over Australia at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria.
Right wing Bryan Habana scored three tries and fullback Zane Kirchner and flanker Francois Louw one each as a fired-up Springbok pack set the platform for a convincing first success against the Wallabies in six attempts.
But Meyer was not getting carried away after the Springboks ended a dismal run in which a lucky draw away to Argentina was followed by losses in Australia and New Zealand.
"We have high standards and should have scored three more tries against the Wallabies," Meyer said.
"It is great to come home and win and we have not beaten Australia for some time, but we have to start taking those opportunities. While we want to score tries again [this week], we are aware of the challenge of playing the world champions.
"New Zealand are a very settled side and a number of players have been part of their defensive system for ages. It is going to be really difficult to create and score against them.
"We will need to be more patient with ball in hand and more tactically astute. If we get scoring chances, we will need to make them count."
There is cause for Springbok optimism, as they could have beaten New Zealand in Dunedin this month instead of losing 21-11, had seven kicks at goals not been fluffed, and endless possession squandered through mindless field kicking.
That defeat led Meyer to drop long-time flyhalf Morne Steyn. His 20-year-old replacement, Johan Goosen, recovered from a couple of early missed penalty attempts in his first test start to regularly bring the backline into play.
Australia lost so many players to injury (centre Adam Ashley-Cooper was the most serious, with concussion) that they ran out of replacements and played the last eight minutes a man short.
Fullback Berrick Barnes, centre Pat McCabe and prop Benn Robinson were other first-half casualties, and No 8 Radike Samo quit during the second half with wrist and shoulder problems.
Coach Robbie Deans said: "We are going to have to bring some players across from Australia [to play Argentina this weekend], which will be challenging, because we have already delved so deep into our resources and there are a couple who will not have visas organised."