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By Ken Borland
DURBAN, South Africa, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Australia beat South Africa 27-15 on Saturday to end the world champions’ hopes of winning the Tri-nations title.
The victory was Australia’s first in South Africa since 2000 while new Springbok coach Peter de Villiers endured his fourth defeat in five Tri-nations matches.
Captain Stirling Mortlock and winger Lote Tuqiri scored second-half tries to seal the Australian victory although South Africa closed the gap in the final quarter with two tries by centre Adrian Jacobs.
Australia flyhalf Matt Giteau gave a masterful display with the boot, kicking three conversions and two penalties.
Loosehead prop Benn Robinson scored a 27th-minute try as Australia seized a 10-0 halftime lead which they never relinquished.
Robinson plunged over the line from close range after he picked up the ball from a ruck, which followed kicks behind the Springbok defence by Giteau and replacement centre Ryan Cross. Wing Jongikhaya Nokwe conceded a free kick after he was caught in possession.
Giteau converted to add to his eighth-minute penalty.
South Africa were eventually on the scoresheet in the 44th minute thanks to a Butch James penalty. Giteau replied with a three-pointer seven minutes later and Australia had the win wrapped up after 62 minutes when Giteau’s long pass after a lineout released Tuqiri, who brushed off Jacobs’ tackle and sliced through for a try from 25 metres out.
Jacobs made partial amends when he picked up the ball from a ruck, after midfield partner Jean de Villiers’ break had put the Springboks on attack. He dived over the line for the Springboks’ first Tri-nations’ try since their last-minute matchwinner in Dunedin on July 12.
Australia struck back immediately when centre Mortlock cut through the Springbok defences and had the power to surge over the line with two tacklers on his back after a run of 30 metres.
Montgomery put Jacobs away in the 71st minute for his second try, but by then Australia were already celebrating their first win in South Africa since their 19-18 victory at the same venue eight years ago.
Australian flankers Rocky Elsom and George Smith stood head and shoulders above their Springbok counterparts, who struggled all afternoon to give their ball-carriers meaningful support.
The much-vaunted South African lineout had an off day but the Springboks were dominant in the scrums although they could derive no meaningful momentum from the good quality ball.
South Africa and Australia play a return fixture in Johannesburg next Saturday, with the Wallabies handily positioned one point behind New Zealand with two matches to play. (Editing by John Mehaffey)