Michael Hooper of the Wallabies
Michael Hooper of the Wallabies Cameron Spencer - Getty Images

Wallabies stun in heart-stopper

AUSTRALIA has won a thriller to get back in the Rugby Championship winner's circle with a gutsy 23-18 win over South Africa at Suncorp Stadium.

The Wallabies had to make a desperate, dramatic final defensive stand well after the final siren to deny South Africa a heart-breaking last-gasp win.


Instead the Wallabies' line held firm and it was South Africa that eventually broke down when a wild pass was snatched up by the Wallabies defence in the 84th minute.

When Matt Toomua was able to punt the ball over the dead-ball line it triggered wild scenes of celebration for the Wallabies after one of their bravest performances since the last world cup.

"Talk about digging in from the Wallabies," Wallabies great Matt Burke told Network 10.

"That was incredible."

The win snapped a four-match losing streak and relieved pressure on coach Michael Cheika.

It wasn't pretty, but Australia overcame the disruption of losing Israel Folau and Adam Coleman earlier on Saturday to grind out an important result and revive their Rugby Championship campaign.

After two tries apiece in the first half, the only points in the second came through a pair of Matt Toomua penalties which settled the match in the home team's favour at a slippery Suncorp Stadium.

Toomua contributed 15 points all up to cap a strong outing in his first start in two years.

It's the first victory for the Wallabies since the opening Test of their June series against Ireland, although critics of Cheika and his methods will not have been convinced by their performance.

After David Pocock (neck) was scratched from the team originally named by Cheika on Friday, the Wallabies had another two late withdrawals before the match with fullback Folau still hampered by his ankle injury and second-row enforcer Coleman sitting out due to family reasons.

They still got off to a bright enough start and crossed for the opening try in just the second minute through skipper Michael Hooper.

But their promising momentum was quickly stalled through ill-discipline, mistakes and poor defence, with Bongi Mbonambi putting South Africa ahead after a rolling maul obliterated the home side's resistance on the quarter-hour mark.

Their lead stretched out to 15-7 when Faf de Klerk picked out an unmarked Makazole Mapimpi with a lovely cutout ball.

However, the Springboks handed the Wallabies a massive lifeline in the 33rd minute - a badly overblown lineout throw in defence from Mbonambi fell favourably for Toomua, who slid under the posts to reduce the margin to one point.

That's how it stayed after Elton Jantjies and Reece Hodge traded penalties before half-time - the latter unleashing his superboot from 53 metres out.

After dominating territory for the first chunk of the second half, the Wallabies finally took the lead back through a Toomua penalty, which made it 20-18.

The introduction of Taniela Tupou helped ensure they maintained the ascendancy, although they failed to convert any of the attacking opportunities they created.

Another penalty from Toomua in the 66th minute gave them a little more breathing space - but they had to hold out a fast-finishing South Africa until well after the siren to secure the win.

- with AAP