It was poetic justice when Springbok goal-kicker Elton Jantjies missed his only attempt with three minutes to go at Bloemfontein last night.
That cost the Boks a win they didn’t deserve to end up a 27-all draw with the hard-working Wallabies.
Moments earlier the Boks were on the attack when a blatant forward pass was missed by the Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe, and his two touchies Jerome Garces, and Shuhei Kubo.
It was the second blatant forward pass when Boks centre Jan Serfontein scored earlier in the second half that gave the home side the lead.
World Rugby officials will no doubt dismiss the two major mistakes as human error, when in fact it’s bordering on total incompetence.
To give Wallaby coach Michael Cheika his due credit, he didn’t make a song and dance about the two match-deciding mistakes.
He just smiled.
There was a lot to like about the Wallabies’ gutsy 80-minute effort at altitude.
To those who haven’t been in the rarified air, let me tell you it’s damn hard to breathe, your lungs are screaming for mercy, and you become very light-headed.
The Wallabies were really hurting, yet they stuck to their game plan, and kept running the ball.
Where they found the energy and the ability to breathe says volumes for their courage, and they were the only side to deserve victory.
They led 13-10 at the break despite only 34 per cent possession, and 36 per cent territory.
Then came the Serfontein try that wasn’t, but each time the Boks hit the front, the Wallabies retaliated to regain the lead.
It was very different from the last time the two teams met in Perth three weeks ago when the Wallabies led 20-10 with 33 minutes to go, but let themselves down to draw 23-all.
They didn’t, and they claimed a draw against the odds – and that took guts.
Kurtley Beale won another man of the match award, he’ll have to turn into an octopus to be able to wear his mounting Rolex watch awards.
Right at home in the 12 jumper now Cheika has recognised his talent, he was again brilliant, always dangerous.
He made one searching run of 60 metres from inside his quarter that cut the Bok defence to ribbons, but nobody came with him, and a try went begging.
Why didn’t he chip?
“We’re limiting our kicking.” was his reply with a grin.
But Beale wasn’t the only standout.
Bernard Foley was just as effective, making one searching run that set up Marika Koroibete’s first international try, and a perfect 25 metre pass to Koroibete on the other side of the field gave the Fijian flyer his second five-pointer on his debut in the starting line-up.
For the icing on the cake, Foley finished the game with his 17th successive goal. and the Wallabies fire when Foley keeps landing goals from all over the park.
Israel Folau scored his inevitable try in the first half that took this year’s international tally to 11, and a new Wallaby record.
Yet again when Beale. Foley, and Folau click, magic rugby isn’t far away.
The wonderful Wallaby backline would never be able to click if it wasn’t for halfback Will Genia’s swift and accurate service. That was again the case last night.
Up front, it was encouraging to see two new locks in Izack Rodda, and Lukhan Tui strut their powerful stuff. Both are big units with a fair bit of mongrel in them which no doubt fits snugly in Cheika’s plans for the future.
Since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, Cheika has introduced 25 new Wallabies, with 20 of them still in the squad.
And with Rodda and Tui joining giant Adam Coleman, who keeps getting better and better with intent, along with the vastly experienced Rob Simmons, the lock spots are nicely covered.
At last the Wallabies are starting to overcome their problem areas.
The lineouts and scrums were better against a far bigger pack, and even though the Wallabies missed 27 tackles, that’s not bad when just about all they did in the first half was tackle, and a fair bit in the second as well.
But this morning was all about courage in a tough environment.
There’s no joy in a draw. but it’s better than losing a game the Wallabies deserved to win.