VIDEO: Wallabies stun South Africa with last minute win
Outplayed for much of the match, Australia left it until after the fulltime siren for Tevita Kuridrani to barge over and clinch a 24-20 comeback win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.
The Springboks led 13-7 at halftime and extended the margin to 13 points when Jesse Kriel scored on debut in the 45th minute, but Australia rallied with two tries in the last six minutes.
After center Matt Giteau missed a penalty attempt to equalize with two minutes to go, and with his team still trailing by three points, skipper Stephen Moore opted to kick for touch and push for a try when Australia was awarded another penalty in the dying seconds.
The Wallabies won the ensuing lineout and laid siege to the line before Kuridrani burrowed over in the tackle of Springboks No. 8 Schalk Burger. The TV official reviewed dozens of replays before confirming the Australia center grounded the ball.
"The boys just stuck at it I suppose," Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said, trying to sum up the comeback. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't yell out, 'Kick for goal,' on the last penalty. Just goes to show the mentality" of the Wallabies.
It was Cheika's first win as coach in a test on home soil, and ended a run of three defeats for the Wallabies. But for most of the match, the South Africans were in front and playing better, more controlled rugby, and dominating the breakdown, frustrating Australia's efforts for quick-phase ball.
The match turned early in the second half when flanker David Pocock made his return to the test arena after a two-year injury-enforced absence to give Australia some parity at the breakdown, and Greg Holmes went on to prop the Wallaby scrum for the first time in eight years.
South Africa, by that stage, had replaced its entire front row, and missed the impact of hooker Bismarck du Plessis in particular in the scrum and around the field, where he'd helped Burger and Francois Louw dominate at the breakdown.
That compounded the absence of captain Victor Matfield, who injured his left leg and left the field in the 18th minute, just one of the injuries the depleted Springboks squad sustained.
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said his lineup played with tremendous character but a lack of experience was telling at the end, when they took some wrong options.
"It's not an excuse but I think if Victor was on the field to the end, it maybe would have been a different story," Meyer said. "Still proud of the guys, but it's never good enough for the Boks to lose. I thought we did enough to win."
The focus before the test was on the return of 32-year-old Giteau, ending a four-year exile to earn his 93rd test cap, and the restoration of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, returing from injury, in the halves.
The experience and guile of the veteran trio was tipped to overawe the young Springboks midfield, which shared a total of 12 caps with Handre Pollard at flyhalf and Damian de Allende and Kriel in the centers.
But the Wallabies over-complicated their attack, and too much ball went astray. Genia was injured and replaced by Nick Phipps at halftime, and Cooper didn't finish the match, replaced by Matt Toomua and his more direct style.
In the end, it was the back-to-basics approach that got the Australians across the line.
South Africa took a 6-0 lead via two Pollard penalties before conceding the first try of the match to Australia winger Adam Ashley-Cooper, who took an inside ball from Cooper standing at second receiver in the 33rd.
The Springboks responded with tries just before and after the halftime break to lead 20-7.
Pollard put a high kick into the corner, which Bryan Habana batted back to Willie le Roux, who got a pass around behind a defender to send lock Eben Etzebeth into the corner in the 38th. In the 45th, Kriel cut back on an angle from the left touchline and beat three tacklers for a try.
Both coaches made a string of changes, and momentum changed. Cooper kicked a penalty to make it 20-10 and, after shoring up the scrum and matching the South African loose trio at the breakdown, the Wallabies started to dominate possession.
After pushing Burger back in-goal to win a five-yard scrum for Australia, Michael Hooper scored from close range in the 74th to make it 20-17 and set up a stunning finish.
"Coming back like that tonight, when we were down, will give them a lot of self-belief going forward," Cheika said.