Australia bounced back from a humiliating loss in their last outing to beat world champions South Africa 25-17 at Adelaide Oval on Saturday to move to the top of the Rugby Championship standings.
Flanker Fraser McReight scored two tries and Man of the Match Marika Koroibete also crossed, with Noah Lolesio adding 10 points from the kicking tee in an assured performance at flyhalf.
The Springboks, looking for a first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 2013, had only a single Handre Pollard penalty on the board until Kwagga Smith scored two tries in the last five minutes.
“It was a tough tour of Argentina and I’m very proud of the effort we put in,” said Australia captain James Slipper. “There were parts of that game where we had to show a lot of character, and we scored when we had our chances.”
Desperate to redeem themselves after the 48-17 loss to Argentina in their last outing, the Wallabies made their first decent start of the season and were a try to the good inside the opening minute.
They stole the kickoff and number eight Rob Valetini was soon rampaging up the right touchline, with McReight getting low to dive across the line two phases later.
Lolesio added the extras and a penalty six minutes later to give the home side a 10-0 lead before the Springboks enjoyed any possession worth talking about.
The world champions soon got up to speed and would have slashed the lead had Handre Pollard not missed two penalties before finally finding his range with his third tee shot in the 24th minute.
Sustained Springboks pressure on the Australia line resulted in winger Tom Wright being sent to the sin bin after half an hour and, with the home lineout a shambles, it looked only a matter of time before the visitors scored.
Winger Makazole Mapimpi was hammered by his opposite number Koroibete as he launched himself at the line, however, and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was shown a yellow card for slapping Nic White in the face at the back of a five-metre scrum.
Australia started the second half as they had the first, and another sweeping smash-and-grab raid in the 47th minute resulted in Koroibete crossing for their second five-pointer.
Better was to come 10 minutes later when Slipper flicked the ball inside to Lolesio, who raced through a huge gap in the defence before finding McReight with an offload that allowed the openside to grab his second try.
Lolesio added the conversion and another penalty to extend the lead to 22-3 and the path back into the match looked steep for the Springboks, even with the much vaunted “Bomb Squad” bench players on the field.
Two replacements did combine to finally give South Africa a try five minutes from time, when prop Vincent Koch made a break and found Smith inside for the score.
Smith was not finished, grabbing his second from a penalty tap as the final few seconds ticked away to make the scoreline more respectable.
“The game is about small margins and every opportunity they got they took it with both hands,” said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi.
Argentina, who topped the standings after their win in San Juan two weeks ago, take on the All Blacks in Christchurch in the second match of the round later on Saturday.