Australia came from behind to beat South Africa 23-18 at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
The Wallabies lost David Pocock and Israel Folau in the build-up to the Test and suffered another blow after Adam Coleman pulled out at the eleventh hour for family reasons.
They took an early lead through Michael Hooper in the second minute before playing catch-up.
South Africa clawed their way into a lead after tries from Mbongeni Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi, as well as the boot of Elton Jantjies to cancel out Matt Toomua’s try.
Reece Hodge’s late long-range penalty on the stroke of halftime made it a one-point game.
Australia kept the Springboks scoreless after the break to end their long losing streak.
Two Toomua penalties put the Aussies in front as they hung on for the win.
Tough, tight contest between two limited sides searching for something, anything.
Last year’s Tests were drawn, and after this display, the countries have shown that there is nothing between them.
Both defences were strong, especially the Boks in the second half, but their poor handling and brain freezes continue to stymy attacks.
All the goodwill from South Africa‘s series win over England has been lost while this victory has given the under siege Wallaby coach Michael Cheika a lifeline.
New Zealand will not be trembling at the thought of this lightweight Springboks team taking them on in Wellington, next week.
The flip-side for the Australian’s is that they will feel they have a good chance against an ever-improving Argentina team.
Boks’ coach Rassie Erasmus’ honeymoon period is well and truly over. He is already a man under pressure and his team selections continue to leave people scratching their heads.
His flip-flopping at flyhalf continues to hinder his side; he needs to make a call and stick by it.
Today’s evidence – if any more was needed – is that Jantjies is not the man for the job. He is simply not a Test-standard No 10.
That Faf de Klerk is in charge of the kicking game tells one everything about the Lions standoff’s effect to control a Test match.
Kurtley Beale, on the other hand, was superb at first receiver, controlling the game with his boot and dictating the tempo.
The Wallabies were strong in the scrum under the lights of Suncorp, winning important penalties when it counted.
Their ability to win the opposition’s lineout ball was crucial in this game, none more so than when Toomua latched onto Mbonambi’s misjudged – and baffling – long throw let Australia back into the contest.
Siya Kolisi continues to make questionable calls.
South Africa won a scrum-penalty under the posts just before the break.
Instead of opting for a driving maul from the lineout, he opted for posts.
The visitors had dominated that area of the game up to that point, scoring their first try when Mbonambi fells over the whitewash after a powerful drive.
Jantjies kicked the penalty, but three instead of seven is massive in a tight affair.
Hodge quickly cancelled out the penalty with a long-range effort. The Boks did not score again.
Fast start for the home team.
Australia caught South Africa napping when Hooper barged over.
Jantjies got the Boks on the board with a penalty, soon after.
The tourists were starting to find some rhythm and took the lead from their destructive driving maul.
Eben Etzebeth took the throw at the front of the lineout and set the platform for the drive.
The ball was expertly recycled to Mbonambi at the back, steadied and calmy driven over the try-line.
Toomua attempted to level the scores but hit the post with a penalty.
Will Genia was tackled over his try-line, giving the Springboks a five-metre scrum.
They took advantage of the fortunate field position, pulling the Wallabies all over the park and battering their goal-line with their big ball carriers.
The Boks pounded away and after several attacks from close range, De Klerk looked up, saw Mapimpi with one man to beat and flung a long pass out to the winger.
Mapimpi gathered and darted underneath Jack Maddocks to extend the visitor’s lead to two scores.
Maddocks went close but was tackled into touch after the restart.
Then another brain freeze by the Boks.
Instead of playing it safe and throwing short to Etzebeth, or even to Franco Mostert at the middle of the lineout, Kolisi and his hooker decided to go for the dangerous Hail Mary.
It is not the first time the Boks have attempted this move.
They have tried it with Malcolm Marx many times and it can be traced back to John Smit, Bismark du Plessis and even the great bench-warmer Hanyani Shimange.
Mbonambi, from earlier try-scorer, turned provider, throwing long into no man’s land where the quick-thinking Toomua collected the bouncing ball and scored under the posts.
Easy as you like and the Aussies were back in the contest.
Jantjies and Hodge traded penalties before the break.
Mistake-ridden second stanza dominated by defence.
Australia came out firing. They were camped inside the Springboks 22 for much of the half.
Cheslin Kolbe on debut put his side under pressure from the get-go after he knocked back Genia’s grubber over his try-line.
Le Roux saved the day, but the mistake set the tone for the rest of the half.
South Africa could not get out of their 22 never mind their half.
Their exit strategy was poor and they could not get their hands on the ball.
Somehow Australia only managed six points and was guilty of profligacy against a tiring team.
However, for all the stodgy Boks attack, their defending was stout. They kept Cheika’s side out, allowing two penalties.
Wave after wave of Wallabies attacks and counter-attacks were repelled.
South Africa thought they had won the game at the death, but the TMO review showed a double knock on in the build-up to the score.
It was one of many squandered attacks.
With one last roll of the dice, the Springboks opted for a scrum because a penalty was not enough.
They went blind but did not protect the ball which popped out of a tackle and into Bernard Foley’s hands.
Genia kicked the ball into touch and that was that.
Final score: Australia 23 (17) South Africa 18 (18)
Tries – Hooper, Toomua
Pen – Hodge, Toomua (2)
Con – Toomua (2)
Tries – Mbonambi, Mapimpi
Pen – Jantjies (2)
Con – Jantjies
Referee: Glen Jackson (NZRU)
Assistant Ref 1: John Lacey (IRFU)
Assistant Ref 2: Paul Williams (NZRU)
TMO: Glenn Newman (NZRU)
15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Will Genia, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Lukhan Tui, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Folau Fainga’a, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Bernard Foley, 23 Tom Banks.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Rudolph Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Cheslin Kolbe.