Rathbone captained South Africa at Under 21 level but left for Australia just two years ago. His try after 71 minutes guaranteed a bonus point for Australia, but effectively it delivered the win as well, as Matt Burke's convert brought Australia out of penalty range. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the last nine minutes, South Africa couldn't bridge the gap.
Once again, South Africa built up a decent lead before succumbing. After 21 minutes they led 16-7. An early Montgomery penalty was superseded by the athletic fielding by Lote Tuqiri of Giteau's crosskick under pressure from Montgomery and Paulse. Tuqiri showed great concentration, athleticism and skill in scoring his try after seven minutes.
The Boks reply was a try from van der Westhuyzen from de Villiers' grubber kick, with Montgomery missing the eminently kickable convert.
A brilliant cover tackle by Giteau on de Villiers and a further Montgomery penalty preceded South Africa's second try. This was a dramatic intercept of an attempted pass by Larkham to Rathbone as they had the Boks under sever pressure. de Villiers sprinted 90m to touch down in a real 14-pointer that stretched the lead to 16-7. This was whittled back to 16-12 when Larkham benefited from van der Westhuyzen's breaking of the defensive alignment to stretch for the line in the tackle. A penalty to Giteau just on the stroke of halftime reduced the gap to just a point at 16-15. Nonetheless, the Springboks had played into the breeze and the sporadic rain in that first half.
Bakkies Botha was penalised for taking out Nathan Sharpe in a lineout early in the second period to cough up another thee pointer that reflected how the lineouts were going. Australia won 22 in the match to South Africa's 10.
George Gregan joined the short list of players with 100 caps (joining Phillippe Sella, David Campese and Jason Leonard) in this match. He was the usual oil in the Wallaby machine, showing good decision-making and keeping them fluent.
Montgomery replied with a penalty of his own before Australia ran back a 22 dropout and Larkham took advantage of Eddie Andrews' presence in midfield to feed Latham who was able to fend off Montgomery to score the try, making it 23-19 to Australia.
The lead changed hands again on 62 minutes when de Wet Barry grubbered left-footed for Gaffie du Toit (on for de Villiers) to gather brilliantly just short of the line and make it over. 26-23 to South Africa.
The stage was set for the South African Rathbone to stick the knife into his former countrymen's hearts. He beat three men on the counter to initiate the attack. Burke broke well before Larkham threw a brilliant pass for Rathbone to squeeze in under pressure from du Preez. Despite an anxious wait for the television match official's decision at to whether he was in touch or not, the try was given and Burke's convert put the Aussies out of penalty range.
The TMO was in action to adjudicate on a Latham effort but found against him, before South Africa ran and ran to no great effect in attempting to haul the game back.
South Africa are most likely out of the competition now, having lost to both New Zealand and Australia away, and conceded a bonus point here to Australia. However, they have been much more competitive than in recent seasons and will fancy their chances of taking a scalp or two in the return matches.