There were no tries from their team, some bad referee calls, but on Saturday evening, South African rugby fans finally had a reason to smile.
After a winless run that saw the Springboks lose to all of the other teams in the Rugby Championship – Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, it took a bit of a backward step by coach Allister Coetzee to take a few forward for the Springboks who finally came good with an 18-10 win.
Coetzee said he would make some tough calls after the last of the three defeats to the All Blacks.
And what he did was to sidestep the all-out attacking approach people want to see in favour of a more conservative approach.
The pin-up boy for this sort of game, Morné Steyn, was the hero in the match and he tried hard to scoop the Man of the Match award, scoring all of the Springboks’ points in the match.
But he was beaten officially by captain Adriaan Strauss, who played the sort of game that made him a Springbok in the first place.
It was by no means a perfect match for SA and the plan to win the territorial game bombed, but it was the seasoned campaigners in the team that stood up when the team desperately needed leadership.
Flanker Francois Louw was another of the “older” players that returned to form.
But with the sweet comes a little bitter as a number of injuries to players such as Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Rudy Paige, who was an improvement on Faf de Klerk as a starting No.9 in this match, all leaving the field with injuries in a physical encounter.
The Boks also deserve a lot of credit with the way they remained calm every time referee Wayne Barnes missed a call.
One of them led to the only try of the match when Barnes missed what looked like being a forward pass in the build-up to Australia prop Scott Sio’s five-pointer.
That gave Australia a 10-3 lead after starting the game with super attacking intent.
It was Steyn that got the scoreboard ticking earlier on with a drop-kick, his first of two, before Bernard Foley drew level with a penalty kick after an Eben Etzebeth infringement in the seventh minute.
Sio’s try was the Wallabies’ last score of the match. But it certainly wasn’t the last time the Wallabies threatened to break the Boks’ line.
At the other end, though, Steyn was an yster and proving to Coetzee that his recall was justified.
It was in the 25th minute when the Boks won a scrum penalty and Steyn brought them a little closer (10-6).
Then after a break by Strauss in his own half, Habana chipped the ball and was charged late by Israel Folau, who was then sent to the cooler.
Steyn made it 10-9 and added another before the break to give the Boks a 12-10 lead.
When play resumed, Coetzee made some changes early on with front-rowers Steven
Kitshoff and Julian Redelinghuys replacing Beast Mtawarira and Vincent Koch, who both gave their all in the first 40.
Still, it was the Aussies that dominated territory, with the Boks’ scrambling on defence.
But the visitors failed to capitalise, with Steyn adding another penalty and then sealing the win with a drop-goal in the end to make it 18-10 for the Boks.