South Africa stunned its critics with a hard-fought 26-22 victory over Australia in the Tri-Nations rugby union opener Saturday at Newlands.
After an unconvincing start to the season, with three comeback wins over Scotland and Argentina, South Africa was widely expected to be exposed by the ruthless efficiency of the world champion Wallabies.
However, a gutsy display on defense, marked by thumping tackles and turnovers at rucks, rattled the Australians, even though they outscored the Springboks three tries to two.
"I was very proud of the way the guys played," South Africa captain Corne Krige said. "We have said all along that we are involved in a process, and it has taken a lot of guts from the players and the coaches to take the criticism and stick to their guns."
Much of South Africa's victory could be attributed to some almost brutal tackling, a feature almost entirely missing from the Springbok makeup previously this season. Recalled inside center De Wet Barry led by example, never missing a tackle and managing to win possession in the tackle on some occasions.
"We've known all along what sort of character he is," Krige said, "and it's great to have him in the team."
Australia managed to regroup after the initial furious assault by the South Africans, and was in the match for most of the second half.