South Africa 29-17 Australia, Tri-Nations, Newlands
De Villiers hails brilliant Boks
August 8, 2009
Australia's Matt Giteau and Richard Brown sit out the action in the sin-bin © Getty Images
South Africa head coach Peter de Villiers admitted that the Springboks are exactly where they want to be at the halfway point of their Tri-Nations campaign.
The reigning world champions followed up back-to-back home wins over the All Blacks with a 29-17 victory over Australia in Cape Town on Saturday to open up an eight-point lead at the top of standings.
South Africa embarked on this year's battle for southern hemisphere supremacy following an impressive series victory over the British & Irish Lions and De Villiers admitted - albeit somewhat reluctantly - that his side is performing somewhere near at the peak of its powers at the moment.
"As a coach you can never be satisfied, and you'll always go for better. But it's working well at the moment," he said. "I've said it before: this team has come a long way and you would have seen it on the field today. The players read the [match] situations very well; we are kind of where we want to be."
The game was effectively decided at the breakdown, with two of the three yellow cards accrued by Australia during the game a direct result of their indiscipline. Heinrich Brussow reigned supreme at the breakdown while Morne Styen also punished nearly every Wallaby indiscretion, the fly-half landing seven penalties in total - a new South African record against Australia.
Springboks captain John Smit admitted that the breakdown had been key element to their latest Tri-Nations success.
"The manner we play is discipline-based and it's something that we pride ourselves on. We take pride in being accurate at the breakdown," the prop said. "We put concerted effort into the breakdown situations and the pressure becomes so much that a team steps over the line."
However, Smit was keen to pay tribute to the Wallabies for the way in which they coped with having to play with 13 men for an eight minute spell either side of half time.
"They played incredibly clever rugby when they were two players short," said Smit. "Before halftime, which was a crucial stage of the match, they were accurate. They had to work through the handicap as well as cope with the pressure that we tried to apply."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was left to rue his side's indiscipline but praised his side for their endeavour.
"The yellow cards made life a lot harder, but it was a pretty good effort with 13 men," said Deans. "Our defence was good under the circumstances, but our energy was sapped. To come out and win that second half under the duress we were under was pretty special.
"The cards didn't help our prospects in the game though. I'm not sure of the number of penalties we gave away, but I think eight out of 13 were shots at goal, seven were converted and that makes life very difficult. When you score two tries to one, you don't normally lose, but we gave away too many penalties."
Wallabies flanker George Smith, who was one of those to be sin-binned, added, "Our backs were against the wall, we stuck to our disciplines and what we've done in training and out defence was impenetrable," he said. "We showed we could also play well during that period, but you can't allow South Africa the lead they had."
"There were also too many unforced errors," he said. "Some were forced on us by the Boks, but you have to eradicate the unforced ones as that let's in your opponents unnecessarily."