Never a dull moment
August 5, 2009
Stephen Larkham broke Springbok hearts at the 1999 Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
The Wallabies head to face a rampant South Africa in Cape Town this weekend, rekindling a rivalry that has produced some classic contests during the Tri-Nations era.
Both teams have won the tournament thanks to victory over the other, while the scorers have been kept busy by some huge victories.
In our latest Scrum Seven we take a look back at some recent classics, all brimming with drama.
South Africa 33-31 Australia, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 2002
With the Springboks facing an ignominious whitewash and Australia requiring a huge win to snatch the title away from the All Blacks, the likelihood of a boring afternoon in Johannesburg was always slim.
The game built to a fascinating crescendo after a brace from winger Breyton Paulse and further tries from fly-half Brent Russell and flanker Joe van Niekerk left the Springboks still agonisingly short of the Wallabies after a snaffled lineout by George Smith led to hooker Brendon Cannon crashing over to score.
With centre De Wet Barry set to come out of the sin-bin, and restore the Springboks to their full complement, his centre partner Marius Joubert was sent off for a high tackle on Mat Rogers. A man down again and seemingly with nothing left, fullback Werner Greef produced a moment of magic and set off on the perfect angle through the Australian defence. His try levelled the scores, and when faced with the conversion to win the game he held his nerve to round out a pulsating contest.
South Africa 23-19 Australia, Kings Park, Durban, 2004
The Springboks had swept aside an aging All Blacks thanks to a hat-trick from Marius Joubert, keeping their dream of a first Tri-Nations title since 1998 alive heading in to a winner-takes-all contest with the Wallabies in Durban.
The visitors scored three tries, to winger Lote Tuqiri, flanker George Smith and centre Stirling Mortlock but were undone by the boot of Percy Montgomery. The Springbok fullback kept his side in touch along with tries from Victor Matfield and Joe van Niekerk, despite joining winger Breyton Paulse in the sin-bin.
Victory secured the title and awards for Schalk Burger and coach Jake White, who were subsequently named as IRB Player and Coach of the Year respectively.
South Africa 18-19 Australia, Kings Park, Durban, 2000
Four years earlier at the same venue, John Eales' World Champion Wallabies secured their first Tri-Nations title. In a tournament filled with some of the greatest games of all time, for example Australia's 39-35 loss to the All Blacks and subsequent 24-23 victory, the conclusion was equally gripping.
The Wallabies had already beaten the Springboks twice during the tournament, but were dominated from the outset at Kings Park. The hosts were unable to convert their chances however, allowing Eales' men to hang in during the closing stages. Braam van Straaten landed six penalties to hand the home side a slender two point lead in the closing stages after Matt Cockbain had been sin-binned for punching Rassie Erasmus less than a minute after his introduction as a replacement.
The visitors had scored a try through fullback Chris Latham with minutes left on the clock.
With memories of his profligacy costing the Brumbies the Super 12 title still fresh, winger Stirling Mortlock stepped up in the closing seconds and converted. Still two points behind, Mortlock was gifted one more shot at goal for the game and title. From the touchline he made no mistake, echoing the last-gasp kick that his skipper had landed to defeat the All Blacks weeks earlier.
South Africa 61-22 Australia, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 1997
Loftus Versfeld is never an easy place to go and play. The vociferous home crowd create an intimidating wall of noise, one that the Wallabies were combating well at half-time in their 1997 Tri-Nations visit. Trailing 18-15 at the break they returned for the second-half and were promptly blown away by the home side.
Percy Montgomery scored a brace, while Mark Andrews, Warren Brosnihan, James Dalton, Jannie de Beer, Rassie Erasmus and Pieter Rossouw all crossed as the Wallabies were blitzed. The Springboks leapfrogged the Wallabies in to second place with what was their first win of the tournament, the All Blacks going unbeaten, and also heralded the end of Australia coach Greg Smith's two-year tenure with the national side.
Australia 49-0 South Africa, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 2006
The 2006 Tri-Nations saw both Australia and South Africa in a state of flux. The Wallabies had endured a wretched 2005, going on a seven-game losing streak.
Springbok coach Jake White had gone close to retaining the Tri-Nations, but his selection policy drew consternation as a host of veteran campaigners were handed second-chances. Eddie Jones had paid for the losing-streak with his job, allowing John Connolly to step in. Connolly saw his men dispatched 32-12 by the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations opener, but he found an immediate release valve as his side walloped the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium.
In a wholly one-sided contest the Boks were 30-0 down at half time after an early drop-goal from Stephen Larkham, two penalties from Stirling Mortlock and tries from hooker Jeremy Paul and Greg Holmes and the first of a brace for Matt Giteau. In the second-half the Springboks' fightback amounted to conceding only 19 further points - to tries from Giteau, Mark Chisholm and Chris Latham. A definite low ebb.
South Africa 53-8 Australia, Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 2008
The 2008 Tri-Nations series found the Springboks as World Champions, with controversial new coach Peter De Villiers taking charge of his first series after a two-Test win over an under-strength Wales. The Wallabies, also under a new coach in Robbie Deans, were like the All Blacks looking for a fresh start after quarter-final exits at the World Cup.
Both sides recorded victories over the All Blacks in the early stages of the tournament, the Springboks' a famous last-gasp triumph at Carisbrook thanks to Ricky Januarie's brilliant solo try, but were humbled by the eventual champions after the return to action of Richie McCaw.
The Wallabies needed a positive result at Ellis Park, and would have fancied their chances after the Boks were nilled by the All Blacks at Newlands. In their attacking arsenal the home side had the relatively unknown quantity of winger Jongi Nokwe however - the Cheetahs wing scoring four tries to break the Springbok record against Australia. Andries Bekker, Adi Jacobs, Odwa Ndungane and Ruan Pienaar all also crossed to complete a humiliating result for the away side - allowing some much needed breathing space for De Villiers.
Australia 27-21 South Africa, Twickenham, England, 1999
During the 1999 Tri-Nations series, the honours had been shared at one win apiece between the sides. That autumn came a decider, in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. At Twickenham, the teams played out a game that featured no tries, but a painful amount of drama.
Jannie de Beer, who was fresh from slotting five drop-goals to end England's involvement, scored a penalty six minutes in to injury time to secure extra-time. The Wallabies had seen a try for scrum-half George Gregan chalked off by referee Derek Bevan in the closing stages, while de Beer had seen four drop-goal attempts sail wide of the mark.
De Beer struck first in extra-time, but it was languid, surprise drop-goal from Stephen Larkham that would send the Australians in to rapture. Standing on an injured knee, Larkham swung through the ball from nearly 50 metres out, bisecting the posts before Burke sealed victory with his eighth and final penalty.