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'Boks down Wallabies in Ellis Park thriller

Photosport

<a href="http://www.sportal.co.nz" target="_blank">sportal.co.nz</a>     10 Sep 2006     Photosport

The Wallabies have been unable to notch a win at Ellis Park since 1963 and the hosts ensured the remarkable statistic stayed intact.

Scores were locked at 3-3 at the half-time break, before Australia regained the lead through a Stephen Larkham try four minutes into the second half.

But a surprise drop goal from Andre Pretorius kick-started a comeback for the Springboks and they added two second half tries to seal the victory.

Australia dominated possession in the opening quarter but loose passes and sloppy turnovers prevented it from putting valuable points on the board.

The visitors had the opportunity to take the lead in the seventh minute when South Africa was penalised for collapsing the ruck, but Stirling Mortlock's kick from 38m drifted just wide.

Matt Giteau looked certain to cross for the Wallabies' first try five minutes later, but a forward pass was called and the Springboks were let off the hook.

Skipper George Gregan and Wycliff Palu combined for some exciting play that saw the Wallabies gain valuable territory before South Africa was penalised again, this time Mortlock on target and adding the points to allow the visitors a 3-0 lead.

Pretorius had an opportunity to level the scores four minutes later with a penalty kick from halfway but his attempt was well left of the posts.

The hosts began to put pressure on the Wallabies close to the 30 minute mark, but Australia's defence held strong.

Pretorius missed a second penalty shot in the 34th minute but made sure his third attempt found its mark three minutes later.

The Springboks had one last chance to push ahead as the half drew to a close, but they wasted a good opportunity and the scores remained locked at the break.

South Africa was awarded a penalty almost immediately after the second term got underway and Pretorius made no mistake of giving his side its first lead of the match.

Australia returned fire soon after and when South African rushed up in defence of its line, leaving a gaping a hole for Larkham to score.

Mortlock converted to give the visitors a 10-3 lead.

Pretorius' third penalty goal got the Spingboks to within one point (9-10) before a sneaky drop goal in the 53rd minute had the hosts back in front with a 12-10 advantage.

It was another quick-thinking move by South Africa shortly after that saw it cross for its first try.

The home side was awarded a penalty from a driving maul close to the Wallabies line and instead of taking a shot at goal, Fourie du Preez took the quick tap and barged through a host of stunned Australian defenders to score.

Pretorius converted the five-pointer and South Africa had established a 19-10 buffer.

Time was running out for the Wallabies but Mortlock kicked two quick penalties to have the visitors back to within three points in the 62nd minute.

The Springboks forward pack continued to play havoc with its Australian counterparts and make valuable metres for the backs.

When speedster Breyton Paulse shrugged off Larkham and Mark Gerrard to reach over for South Africa's second try with nine minutes to go, Australia's chances of a comeback began to fade.

The visitors launched a late assault in an effort to finally break the Ellis Park hoodoo but the home side held on for the hard-fought victory.

South Africa 24 (Fourie Du Preez, Breyton Paulse 1 try, Andre Pretorius 1 con, 3 pen, 1 dg) Australia 16 (Stephen Larkham 1 try, Stirling Mortlock 1 con, 3 pen. HT: 3-3