The Wallabies have capitalised on a late yellow card to Springboks winger Bryan Habana in his 100th Test to steal an epic 24-23 victory at the death in Perth.
Flyhalf Bernard Foley kicked his second match-winning goal in as many months after super-sub Kurtley Beale helped spark the 10-point comeback on Saturday to end the Springboks’ eight-match winning streak.
With the Wallabies looking down and out at 23-14 behind with 15 minutes to go, Habana – who had been dangerous all night – was harshly sin-binned for an apparent high tackle on Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Springboks captain Jean de Villiers pleaded with Irish referee George Clancy not to bin his teammate but it was to no avail.
Beale came on soon after to exploit the numerical advantage and earn a penalty, then combined with the Waratahs-laden backline to put Horne over in the 78th minute.
Foley, who had a mixed night in his first international outing with halves partner Nick Phipps in wet and windy conditions, then stepped up to the plate to nail a conversion 10 metres in from the sideline.
The win keeps the Mandela Challenge Plate alive, and shows the Wallabies aren’t the easybeats the All Blacks made them out to be at Eden Park two weeks ago.
And while it wasn’t scintillating end-to-end rugby, it was about as entertaining as one could have hoped for on a thoroughly saturated Patersons Stadium.
The Wallabies got off to a flyer after a leaping Israel Folau regained the kick-off.
And like he’s done so many times this season Folau finished what he started, running onto a low pass from a cool-headed Matt Toomua to cross after just 90 seconds.
Much of the visitor’s early territorial dominance was due to a strong tail wind, and they made the most of it by plugging the corners and pinning the Australians in their own territory.
The tactics worked, and the Springboks absorbed the shock start through a Morne Steyn penalty goal, then hit the front through a well constructed try to winger Cornal Hendricks.
The sides then traded two penalty goals apiece for the Boks to go up 14-11 at halftime.
While the Wallabies played the more enterprising rugby, they fell just short of being rewarded for their efforts when Ashley-Cooper lost the ball over the tryline while diving for a Toomua grubber.
The Wallabies had the strong breeze in their favour in the second half, but quickly lost their bundle, extremely poor kicking and basic errors quickly negating any advantage.
The Wallabies’ scrum was then put under severe pressure from the Boks, directly costing them two penalty goals on the back of Steyn’s reliable boot.
But Habana’s yellow card soon turned the match on its head, Australia coming from behind for a historic win.
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer refused to cry foul after the match when asked what he thought of Habana’s controversial yellow card.
“I think you know the answer and I know the answer, so I’m not going to answer. The ref is always right,” Meyer said.
“I’d love to answer that question. But I’m not going into it. We don’t want to use it as an excuse.”
De Villiers was also diplomatic after the match, saying he just wanted consistency – especially considering Horne’s high shot on himself minutes earlier in a similar position on the field.
“To sit here and complain about the referee’s decision isn’t our way. We’ll just take this one on the chin,” he said.
However, de Villiers did say it was a shattering way for Habana to finish his 100th Test.
“I do feel for him. Getting sin binned on your 100th isn’t the way he ever envisaged,” he said.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie defended his decision to wait until late in the game to sub Beale on at inside centre.
“Everyone’s an expert on who to pick, but I think we got a good outcome. Kurtley gave us a good second wave of attack in the last 10 minutes,” he said.
“I always think of the bench as finishing the game and that’s what they did.”
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper praised Foley for his steely nerves during his last two kicks.
“It’s really comforting as a captain to know you’ve got a guy who can hit the pressure goals.
“That was a tough kick.”