Tri Nations 2002
Wallaby defeat hands title to All Blacks
August 17, 2002
Werner Greeff celebrates his match-winning conversion
© Getty Images
The Springboks edged out the Wallabies 33-31 at Ellis Park today in a win that ensured New Zealand claimed this year's Tri Nations title.
A last gasp try and conversion from Springbok fullback Werner Greef meant that South Africa avoided a whitewash in this year's series and the All Blacks took the title for the first time since 1999. Up until the final twist in this game it appeared the Wallabies had completed a remarkable comeback having trailed by 17 points well into the second half.
The Springboks went into the game with out first choice flyhalf andre Pretorius who was forced to withdraw on the morning of the game with a knee injury he picked up in the team's last training session. His spot was taken by livewire Brent Russell who proved a key player in the Springboks first victory of this year's Tri Nations series.
The signs early on were not good for the Boks without a recognised place kicker. Both Russell and Greef fluffed penalty chances before Matt Burke eventually opened the score for the Wallabies. Burke soon added two more penalties as the Boks were punished for their errors.
However, South Africa rallied later in the second half and some good work from prop Lawrence Sephaka softened up the Wallaby defence. His efforts allowed wing Breyton Paulse to dance through a gap for his first try in 12 Tests. Greef added the conversion and the Boks were back in the game.
Spurred on by a vociferous 62,000 Ellis Park crowd, Russell added a second try shortly after when he bounced out of a tackle from Matt Burke and Stirling Mortlock. Once again Greef added the conversion to give the Springboks a 14-9 advantage at the break.
Immediately from the re-start the Boks picked up where they had left off. The normally resilient Wallaby defence was battered into submission and Paulse was able to collect his second try.
The Wallabies responded with the sort of barrage we have come to expect from the World Champions throwing everything at the Springboks. Tempers threatened to boil over on several occasions and De Wet Barry found himself in th bin after punching Chris Latham at a ruck.
But the Boks produced a sucker punch of their own when some great hands and sublime piece of skill from Bob Skinstad put Joe van Niekerk in for a score.
Under pressure Skinstad straightened his run and fed Niekerk with a pass around the back of Wallabby wing Ben Tune. The flanker then raced away to dot down for the five pointer.
But the Boks then sat back to defend their lead and the Wallabies stepped up a gear to haul themselves back into the game.
First replacement Matt Rodgers danced his way through the Springbok defence then No.8 Totai Kefu crossed shortly after. Both efforts were converted by Burke to reduce the gap to three points.
More drama was to follow when Springbok centre Marius Joubert was red carded for a high tackle, one of many in the game, with ten minutes of the game to go.
George Gregan then kicked a drop goal to level the scores at 26-all before moments later George Smith produced a blistering run to set up replacement hooker Brendan Cannon for what appeared to be the winning try.
With his side down to 14 men, the hooter having already sounded and trailing 26-31, fullback Werner Greef produced a superb line of running to cut the Wallaby defence wide open and tie up the scores once more.
Greef then sent the Ellis Park crowd into frenzy with a successful conversion that not only prevented a whitewash but also won the Springboks the Mandela Cup.
Scoreboard: South Africa 33: Paulse 2t, van Niekerk, Russell 1t, Greeff 1t, 4g Australia 31: Cannon, Kefu, Rogers 1t, Gregan 1dg, Burke 3pg, 2g