Australia withstood tremendous pressure from South Africa to edge the quarter-final against the Springboks 11-9 in Wellington.
James O’Connor kept his nerve to kick the winning points in the 71st minute after the Wallabies had withstood plenty of pressure throughout the match.
James Horwill scored the only try of the match and Australia took an 8-3 lead into the break, but South Africa were by far the better side.
The second half began as the first had finished, with Australia having to do plenty of defending.
The Springboks thought they had scored a try in the 46th minute when Pat Lambie ran in, but referee Bryce Lawrence of New Zealand ruled Jean de Villiers had made a forward pass to Lambie.
Morné Steyn kicked South Africa to within two points with a penalty in the 55th minute, with South Africa leading the territory and tackling statistics and continually pushing the Australians back.
The pressure was building, but the Springboks never got close enough for a try. Instead, Steyn kicked his trademark drop goal in the 60th minute to give South Africa the 9-8 lead.
Australia somehow continued to quell the storm of the Springbok heavy brigade, led by the effervescent Schalk Burger and often turning the ball over against the odds.
Lambie went close with an ambitious drop goal attempt from near halfway in the 68th minute, which if successful would have made it difficult for Australia.
In the 71st minute O’Connor put Australia into the lead 11-9 with a pin-point penalty goal after Danie Russouw hauled Radike Samo over while he was still in the air at a lineout.
The early stages of the match had featured a number of kicks as the two teams jockeyed for dominance.
South Africa gained some momentum from stealing a lineout from Australia’s throw and they looked good as they swung the ball to the left along the backline and then back again, with Lambie making a good run before the move broke down.
Australia broke the deadlock from a long touch-finder from Quade Cooper in the 11th minute.
From the lineout, won by South Africa, a maul developed, which Radike Samo flew into, the ball was knocked loose and Pat McCabe was on hand to pass it inside to skipper James Horwill, who dived over. James O’Connor missed a regulation conversion.
O’Connor made amends with a penalty in the 17th minute after Gurthrö Steenkamp was penalised at a ruck and Australia, looking dangerous, moved into an 8-0 lead.
Steyn, South Africa’s kicker extraordinaire, attempted a penalty after Australia’s Stephen Moore was caught offside just inside his own half, but missed the 27th-minute kick.
Near the end of the half South Africa put in some good runs, taking advantage of their superior territorial battle, but the Australia defence held.
Play was getting scrappy and in the process star wing Bryan Habana was on the receiving end of at least three bone-crunching tackles, and left the field early in the second spell.
Steyn kicked a penalty after Horwill was penalised for having hands in the ruck to reduce the margin to five points at the break.Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.