Tri Nations 2000
Last-gasp Wallabies seal Tri Nations title
August 26, 2000
Report Match details
Date/Time: Aug 26, 2000, 17:00 local, 15:00 GMT
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
South Africa 18 - 19 Australia
Attendance: 52000  Half-time: 6 - 13
Pens: van Straaten 6
Tries: Latham
Cons: Mortlock
Pens: Mortlock 4
John Eales lifts the Tri Nations trophy after Australia defeated South Africa at King's Park, Durban. August 26 2000
John Eales lifts the Tri Nations trophy for Australia
© Getty Images
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What John Eales can do, Stirling Mortlock can do better. Mortlock is the toast of Australian rugby after landing an injury-time, sideline conversion to give Australia their first Tri-Nations championship with a 19-18 victory against South Africa in Durban. Mortlock was much maligned for his poor kicking during the international season and there was even some relief when Eales stepped up to take his last-gasp, match-winning kick against the All Blacks in Wellington.

But there was no suggestion Eales would take this pressure kick with the 24-year-old Mortlock showing few nerves to confidently stroke the ball from the sideline after eight minutes of injury time. There was no time for Springbok flyhalf Braam van Straaten to restart as referee Paul Honiss blew full-time to leave the Absa Stadium crowd stunned and the Wallabies jubilant.

The world champions strengthened their claim to the greatest Wallaby line-up of all time with this Tri-Nations title completing a clean sweep of global rugby honours and adding the final piece of silverware to their bulging trophy cabinet.

It wasn't their prettiest performance of the year, but the satisfaction on the full-time whistle was by no means less as the Wallabies scored their first victory in South Africa since 1992 to edge ahead of New Zealand on the table. It was also the Wallabies fourth successive victory against South Africa.

The victory was a fitting farewell for three Wallaby greats - prop Richard Harry, flanker David Wilson and centre Jason Little - playing their last games for Australia. Longtime team-mte Tim Horan, who was scheduled to also play his last game tonight before injury brought his Australian career to a premature end, was also on hand to enjoy the moment.

The Wallabies scored the game's only try and led at half-time 13-6 after a poor first-half by both sides. The game rarely reached the great heights already set by the Tri-Nations this season with both sides guilty of poor handling. However, the game lifted in intensity during the second half with tempers flaring as the tempo built to Mortlock's match winner.

The normally dynamic Wallaby backline was particularly disjointed with Stephen Larkham forced into several uncharacteristic errors in the face of some intimidating Springbok defence. Rassie Erasmus was superb as he hunted Larkham all over the paddock.

Australia took a 6-3 lead after eight minutes with van Straaten and Mortlock sharing penalty goals.

Both sides then struggled to find any composure as the errors crept in. The Springboks should have taken an 8-6 lead when they held a four-man overlap in the 16th minute, but van Straaten chose to run himself rather than passing. The Wallabies had their chances in Springbok territory, but lacked the composure close to the Springbok line.

South Africa looked to have snatched the lead in the 34th minute when Erasmus intercepted a pass from Wallaby halfback George Gregan as he cleared from a lineout 15m out. However, the video referee judged that Erasmus was held up, despite his own protests that he got the ball down.

With the game set to go into half-time without a try, the Wallabies finally finished off one of their attacking raids with Chris Latham scooping up a superb pass from replacement hooker Jeremy Paul to score in the corner. Van Straaten landed a second penalty on half-time for Australia to take a 13-6 lead into the break.

The game lifted for the better in the second-half with South Africa mustering the same passion they displayed against New Zealand at Ellis Park last week. They starved the Wallabies of possession and three penalties to Van Straaten reduced Australia's lead to 13-12 after just 15 minutes of the second half.

Mortlock extended Australia's lead to 16-12 in the 61st minute, but van Straaten bought South Africa to within a point again with his fifth penalty. The Wallabies lost replacement flanker Matt Cockbain to the sin-bin for 10 minutes during this time, but the Springboks failed to take advantage of the extra man.

The Wallabies continued to struggle for composure and even their much-vaunted lineout stumbled with replacement Albert van den Berg prominent as the Springboks stole three Australian throws.

South Africa took the lead for the first time since the fourth minute when van Straaten landed a long-range penalty in the 78th minute and with the crowd driving their team on, the Springboks were poised to wreck Australia's party.

As the clock ticked down, the Wallabies launched a final assault on the opposition line, but could find no way through the solid Springbok defence. Their cause looked hopeless when Jason Little was isolated on the wing, but the from the ensuing ruck South Africa were penalised and Mortlock stepped up for his successful shot at glory.

Australia - Try: Chris Latham. Conversion: Stirling Mortlock. Penalty goals: Mortlock 4.

South Africa - Penalty goals: Braam van Straaten 6.

South Africa: Thinus Delport; Chester Williams, Grant Esterhuizen, Robbie Fleck, Breyton Paulse; Braam van Straaten, Werner Swanepoel; Andre Vos (capt, Warren Brosnihan 40), Corne Krige, Rassie Erasmus (Albert van den Berg 58), Mark Andrews (Erasmus 72), Andre Venter (Albert van den Berg 58), Cobus Visagie, Charl Marais (John Smit 78), Robbie Kempson (Ollie le Roux 40). Replacements not used: Percy Montgomery, Jaco van der Westhuzyen, Joost van der Westhuizen

Australia: Chris Latham; Stirling Mortlock, Daniel Herbert, Jason Little, Joe Roff (Ben Tune 72, Rod Kafer 80); Stephen Larkham, George Gregan; Jim Williams, David Wilson (Mark Cockbain 53), Mark Connors (Toutai Kefu 52), John Eales (capt), David Giffin, Fletcher Dyson, Michael Foley (Jeremy Paul 31), Richard Harry (Glenn Panoho). Replacements not used: Sam Cordingley.


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