Rugby Championship: Late penalty sees South Africa narrowly lose to Australia

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GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Handré Pollard of the Springboks runs the ball during the Rugby Championship match between the South Africa Springboks and the Australian Wallabies at Cbus Super Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Reigning world champions South Africa suffered a narrow 28-26 defeat to Australia in their Rugby Championship encounter at Cbus Super Stadium in Gold Coast, Australia, on Sunday.

Veteran fly-half Quade Cooper, who had not played internationally since 2017, slotted a difficult penalty late in the match to earn the Wallabies a shock victory against the Springboks.

Handré Pollard of the Springboks runs the ball during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Australia at Cbus Super Stadium in Gold Coast, Australia. /Getty Images

Handre Pollard and Cooper traded penalties within the first 15 minutes to make it 6-6 before a yellow card to Boks captain Siya Kolisi in the 16th minute reduced South Africa to 14 men. Australia capitalized on their man advantage and Andrew Kellaway crossed over for the first try of the match with Cooper adding the conversion.

Australia were also reduced to 14 men shortly before the half hour mark with Matt Philip going off and South Africa scored a try of their own through Bongi Mbonambi a minute later.

Cooper added two penalties shortly before halftime as the hosts went into the break with a 11-19 lead.

Another penalty by Pollard early in the second half cut the deficit to five points but Boks full-back Willie le Roux then saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on and Cooper slotted the resulting penalty to make it 22-14.

Malcolm Marx dotted down on the stroke of the hour with Pollard successfully kicking the conversion to pull South Africa to within a point of Australia who had Folau Fainga’a sinbinned just before Marx’s effort.

Cooper kicked another penalty after a Boks infringement to make it 25-21 but Marx then crossed over for his second try with eight minutes left but Damien Willemse, who had come on for Pollard, crucially missed the conversion.

With very little time left, Australia won a penalty and Cooper, who eventually finished the game with 23 points, stepped up to kick the match-winning penalty and give the Wallabies a morale-boosting victory after three successive loses to Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

New Zealand, who earlier in the day thumped Argentina 39-0, tops the table with 15 points, followed by South Africa with 10 points and the Australia and Argentina with four points and zero points respectively.

The next matches take place September 18 with Australia kicking off against South Africa first followed by Argentina playing New Zealand.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

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