Bloemfontein, South Africa (AP) — South Africa and Australia played to their second draw in this year’s Rugby Championship, 27-27 this time, ensuring New Zealand retained their southern hemisphere title on Saturday with two games to spare.
The Springboks and Wallabies scored three tries each at Free State Stadium, with Boks flyhalf Elton Jantjies missing a last-minute penalty to win a seesaw game in which the lead went back and forth throughout the second half.
That breathless second half began with four tries in just over 10 minutes, two to each side.
“Can’t split us for the year,” Australia captain Michael Hooper said. “Two draws. I’m sure both teams are extremely frustrated but great game … right down to the wire.”
The result meant New Zealand can’t be caught by second-placed South Africa in the championship, and clinch a 15th title overall and sixth crown in the last eight years. New Zealand were confirmed 2017 champions before playing Argentina later Saturday in their penultimate match.
In Bloemfontein, it was more a case of South Africa and Australia playing for second place behind the dominant All Blacks anyway.
Rugby league convert Marika Koroibete scored two tries in his second test and first start for the Wallabies but came dangerously close to giving the game away when he conceded the late penalty that opened the door for South Africa.
From wide out on the left, Jantjies pulled his kick across the posts.
Ruan Dreyer, Jan Serfontein, and Courtnall Skosan went over for the Springboks, but they couldn’t do enough to clinch the win they desperately wanted after a 57-0 humiliation in New Zealand two weeks ago.
“We’re not happy with a draw,” Springboks captain Eben Etzebeth said.
Jantjies kicked 12 points, as did Australia No. 10 Bernard Foley.
And as with their 23-23 draw in Perth three weeks ago, neither team could find the killer blow. Australia still haven’t won in South Africa since 2011, and neither team has won away from home in the last eight tests between them.
Australia lost the territory stakes but were efficient and clinical when they made chances and it was one of the Wallabies’ best chances in years to succeed in South Africa.
Fullback Israel Folau carved through South Africa’s backline in the 11th minute off a set move and an inside pass from Foley. South Africa, who made all the early running, came up empty-handed in the first skirmishes.
The Boks did get over through prop Dreyer in the 18th, and the boots of Foley and Jantjies did the rest in the first half to give the Wallabies a 13-10 lead.
The tries came fast at the start of the second half.
Serfontein finished for South Africa in the 43rd after a break down the right wing from flanker Siya Kolisi, who ran through an attempted tackle by Kurtley Beale.
Australia hit back with Koroibete’s first try three minutes later. Foley broke, Kolisi missed the tackle this time, and the powerful Fiji-born winger was sent clear on the right wing.
Skosan helped South Africa ahead again in the 49th. Australia came back when Koroibete barreled over, this time on the left wing, for his second in the 56th.
Australia had a golden opportunity before Jantjies’ late miss, but Tevita Kuridrani was cut down by Ross Cronje a meter from the South Africa tryline.
Koroibete gave away a penalty for not releasing as the Springboks pressed in the dying seconds. Jantjies was off target for the first time in the match.