Defending champions South Africa chalked up their thirteenth consecutive home win by coming from behind to edge Australia, Ireland's opponents in November, in Saturday's Tri-Nations opener.
TRI-NATIONS: Saturday, July 30
South Africa 22 Australia 16, Securior Loftus Stadium, Pretoria
Scorers: South Africa: Try: Breyton Paulse; Con: Percy Montgomery; Pen: Montgomery; Drops: Montgomery, Andre Pretorius
Australia: Try: George Smith; Con: Matt Giteau; Pens: Giteau 3
Jake White's Springboks were forced to rely on the respective boots of full-back Percy Montgomery and fly-half Andre Pretorius in the final quarter for a victory, which would have been a little too close for comfort for some.
The 'Boks took the points in the end, after two George Smith infringements allowed Montgomery to first kick his side level at 16-16, and then flash a 72nd-minute penalty over for the lead.
Pretorius' last-minute drop goal then made certain of the points.
That the Wallabies struck for the game's first try from flanker Smith showed an improvement from their Mandela Plate loss last weekend at Ellis Park. Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan will have paid particularly note to the Aussies' defiant defence, and their unerring ability to soak up the powerful runs of John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp and Jacques Cronje, while also spreading the ball in attack in the opening half.
The visitors' superior passing and link-up play allowed them work up a 13-6 half-time buffer, and fire back in the face of the critics following the controversy over the nightclub row between replacement scrum-half Matt Henjak and winger Lote Tuqiri in Cape Town, ten days ago.
A more pressing matter for the Wallabies and coach Eddie Jones before the kick-off was the late loss of number 8 David Lyons (virus). They regrouped well, posting Smith to the blindside and bringing in veteran Phil Waugh for his first start of 2005. Their scrum held up, although tighthead Matt Dunning struggled at times, and 'Boks' bruiser Victor Matfield did boss the lineout.
White's charges squared the match up after two Matt Giteau penalties has pushed the visitors 6-3 in front. A timely, and particularly well-executed team try was to follow for the Aussies just on the cusp of half-time.
When Breyton Paulse was forced to touch down a Wendell Sailor chip behind his own tryline, Australia sensed something. Stephen Larkham and Giteau attacked off the subsequent five-metre scrum, Sailor and Morgan Turinui continued the drive before skipper George Gregan sent Smith through the gap to score.
Giteau's conversion put the Aussies seven points in front. Crucially, South Africa hit back with a try of their own within eleven minutes of the second half's start.
Bryan Habana and Montgomery did the donkey work for Paulse, who is to join French side Clermont Auvergne for the new season, to sprint over for a well-taken try, converted by Montgomery.
Aussie centre Giteau increased his influence when kicking a third penalty for 16-13, but the 'Boks finished the stronger and landed three kicks in the final quarter - with Montgomery's haul taking his Test points tally to 501 - to confirm their second successive defeat of the Aussies.
Jones admitted "a golden opportunity" was lost in the second half in Pretoria, but it must be comforting for his squad to be heading home after a brutal South African tour.
Coupled with the two defeats and the nightclub row, a knee injury to winger Sailor looks like ending his Tri-Nations involvement.
Still, a deserved bonus point was garnered on Saturday, and the Aussies will be thankful for a two-week break before they welcome the All-Blacks to Sydney on August 13.
South Africa have little time to wallow in their success - New Zealand visit Cape Town this weekend.
SOUTH AFRICA: Percy Montgomery; Breyton Paulse, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Andre Pretorius, Fourie du Preez; Gurthro Steenkamp, John Smit (capt), CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Joe van Niekerk, Juan Smith, Jacques Cronje.
Replacements used: Schalk Burger for Cronje (50 mins), Wayne Julies for de Villiers (58), Albert ven den Berg for Matfield (62), Gary Botha for van der Linde (67), Ricky Januarie for du Preeze (68). Not used: Lawrence Sephaka, Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
AUSTRALIA: Chris Latham; Wendell Sailor, Morgan Turinui, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri; Stephen Larkham, George Gregan (capt); Bill Young, Jeremy Paul, Matt Dunning, Daniel Vickerman, Nathan Sharpe, Phil Waugh, George Smith, John Roe.
Replacements used: Al Baxter for Dunning (44 mins), Stirling Mortlock for Turinui (55), Mark Chisolm for Vickerman (71), Drew Mitchell for Sailor (72), Rocky Elsom for Roe (75), Stephen Moore for Paul (80). Not used: Chris Whitaker.
HT: South Africa 6 Australia 13; Attendance: 50,000
Referee: Paul Honiss (New Zealand)