Australia held on in the face of a late South African surge as the two teams played to a disappointing 23-all draw.
A draw. That is never a satisfactory result for a rugby match. Unlike soccer and cricket, it has never been a game in which you can play for a draw. It is a game that you have to keep on trying to win, and when you don't win you are disappointed.
In this match the Springboks may well be more disappointed than the Wallabies. The Springboks would probably have felt that they had had the better of the match, especially the second half, and that they had created better opportunities than the Wallabies. The Wallabies' disappointment may well have been tempered with relief, but ,credit to them, with time up, they were still trying to run out of their own territory in search of a victory, despite the risk of defeat.
Look at getting possession and you realise how the Springboks' use of possession must have been disappointing.
The Springboks won the scrums, the line-outs, the tackles and the territory. But two factors denied them the victory - their own errors and the Wallabies's determination.
It was only Wallaby determination that kept Serfontein from scoring and kept Jaco Kriel from scoring. Both were incidents that could have given the Springboks a comfortable-looking victory.
One of their errors was kicking. In the first half they kicked a lot of ball downfield - an Elton Jantjies hoof or an Andries Coetzee grubber.
Another error of their own making was their handling, which not only destroyed a vital chance or two but helped the Wallabies in their attacking ambitions.
For the Wallabies, their set pieces were poor.
The surprise was their line-outs. They had achieived 100% in their two tests against the All Blacks, but in Perth they lost two line-outs and threw in unacceptably skew in two others. That dropped the line-out success to 60%. On the other hand the Springboks lost just one of their 13 throws, giving them a 93% success rate.
On a late Perth afternoon as the sun reddened the western sky as it sank into the Atlantic, Bernard Foley kicked off to start this third-round Rugby Championship. The anthems were sung, the crowd excited and the start was such a damp squib as it failed to travel 10 metres.
The Wallabies were penalised three times for air tackles. Sekope Kepu was the first offender and Elton Jantjies opened the scoring with a penalty goal. 3-0 after three minutes.
Foley goaled a penalty against Uzair Cassiem at a tackle. 3-3 after 7 minutes.
Israel Folau had a good run down the left after Courtnall Skosan had knocked the ball to the Wallabies. Reece Hodges missed a penalty kick at goal after Jaco Kriel had infringed Soon afterwards Hodges had a promising run down the left off a clever pass from Will Genia.
Tatafu Polota-Nau went off for a head injury assessment, which he passed, and in his place came 20-year-old Jordan Uelese for his Test debut - 20 but strong.
The Springboks kicked two meaningless kicks downfield. Israel Folau counterattacked off the second, pranced and was tackled. The Springboks forced a turnover and Ross Cronje gave to Jesse Kriel on the short side. Kriel kicked downfield and he and Raymond Rhule chased. Hooper and Rhule ran for the ball, shoulder to shoulder, and both fell down, leaving Jesse to pick up the ball and dive over in the right corner. Jantjies converted with an excellent kick. 10-3 after 26 minutes.
Foley kicked off. Folau and Skosan leapt for the ball which flew into the hands of Adam Coleman. The big lock pounded ahead and gave to Genia who gave to Sean McMahon. The Wallabies went left but Kurtley Beale came running back behind the forwards, straightened, threw a dummy which Skosan bought, and scored. 10-10 after 28 minutes.
It was the Wallabies's best passage of play in the match.
The Springboks kicked off. Eben Etzebeth jumped for the ball and Folau banged into him and was penalised. It was straight in front but Jantjies's kick was wide right.
Jantjies had another poor kick, which benefited the Wallabies.
The Wallabies were penalised at a scrum but Jantjies's kick did not find touch. The Wallabies went left in counterattack. Coenie Oosthuizen was penalised for being offside and from in front Foley made it 13-10 as the half-time whistle went.
The Springboks were different in the second half. They showed that at the start when, instead of kicking, Coetzee ran with the ball to set up a counterattack. But the Wallabies were first to score and they did so with a "Springbok" try..
A penalty set them attacking and they had a five-metre line-out. They formed a maul and put their main pressure on the right of the maul and they ran it over the line for a try by Polota-Nau. The Wallabies led 20-10, and the kick-off did not travel 10 metres which gave them a chance to attack again and suggested that the Springboks were falling apart. But Siya Kolisi changed that perception.
The sturdy flank flew into Coleman, got the ball and started running. He gave to Jan Serfontein who raced on, Hooper cut the centre down just short of the line and Speight killed any chance of quick ball for the Springboks.
The Wallabies survived but the Springboks came back on the attack, using reverse passes which did not fool the Wallabies. Then the Wallabies were penalised at a scrum and Jantjies goaled. 20-13 to the Wallabies after 54 minutes.
Changes now started - Steven Kitshoff for Tendai Mtawarira, Rob Simmons for Coleman, Jean-Luc du Preez for Cassiem.
Another scrum penalty gave the Springboks an attacking line-out. They formed a maul and got it moving. It gathered speed and raced over he Wallaby line for a try credited to Malcolm Marx. (A typical hooker's try?) 20-20 with 21 minutes to play.
Francois Hougaard and Lood de Jager came on for the Springboks, Jack Dempsey and Nick Phipps for the Wallabies.
The Wallabies had a scrum, the Springboks put pressure on it and the Wallabies could not control the ball. Kolisi grabbed it and gave to Jesse Kriel who gave to Jaco Kriel who ploughed ahead and was over the line under the posts in a saving tackle by Folau. But the referee had seen a little knock-on just before the goal-line. That gave the Wallabies a five-metre scrum.
The Springboks destroyed the Wallabies' scrum, the Wallabies were penalised and, with the easiest of kicks, Jantjies gave the Springboks a lead at 23-10 with 13 minutes to play.
But again the Springboks were in trouble after a kick-off. Hougaard was penalised for plaguing a scrumhalf without the ball and Foley goaled. 23-all with 11 minutes to play.
Those 11 minutes belonged to the Springboks. They attacked deep in Wallaby territory and after several phases set up Jantjies for a drop but it was charged down.
Man of the Match: Not easy - not when the candidates are Jesse Kriel, Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was back to his best form and Jesse Kriel. Then there were Sean McMahon, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley of the Wallabies while Will Genia did manfully behind a messy pack. Our choice - open to debate - is Jesse Kriel who gave the Springboks such an advantage at tackles besides his other activities.
Moment of the Match: Kurtley Beale's try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody. You would have to turn peccadilloes into mortal sins to find one!
Tries: Beale, Polota-Nau
Cons: Foley 2
Pens: Foley 3
For South Africa:
Tries: Jesse Kriel, Marx
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 3
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Reece Hodges, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Curtis Rona.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)