Johannesburg: The Wallabies first audition in a World Cup year has resulted in a 35-17 loss to South Africa in a game where the visitors failed to take their chances at crucial moments and Springboks halfback Herschel Jantjies ran rings around his opponents with two super tries.
Australia bombed two first half tries of their own, courtesy of a Samu Kerevi forward pass to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto before he crossed the paint and then a Dane Haylett-Petty fumble over the tryline.
Add to that captain Michael Hoopers questionable decision to ask for a scrum rather than take an easy penalty in front of the sticks and the Wallabies left a potential 17 points out on the field in one half alone.
Australia only trailed 14-10 at the break and were arguably the better side early on but couldnt lift to another gear in the next 40 minutes as they slumped to their 12th defeat in 16 matches stretching back to late 2017.
"South Africa controlled the second half so well," Hooper said. "We had a few opportunities in the first half which would have created a different picture but pat on the back to the South African team who controlled the ball and took advantage of the yellow card and took the match away.
"Our attack in the first half was world-class. We showed a lot of different pictures but the reality is those things didnt happen and we were left with them doubling our points. Theres a lot to look at."
Taniela Tupous yellow card in the 54th minute for a no-arms cleanout compounded his sides woes and was a big moment as South African halves duo Herschel Jantjies and Elton Jantjies worked their magic to get South Africa off to an auspicious start in this years truncated Rugby Championship.
Herschel Jantjies bagged two five-pointers to the delight of a vocal local crowd at the venue of South Africas 1995 World Cup triumph.
There were bright spots for Australia in the form of fullback Tom Banks, No.8 Isi Naisarani on debut and halfback Nic White but the Wallabies will lick their wounds after suffering their biggest loss to the Springboks since the Cape Town Test of 2014.
Australia have little time to bounce back from the five tries to two defeat before facing Argentina in Brisbane next Saturday.
Reserve Kurtley Beale showed real spark when he was injected. His neat offload to Bernard Foley brought about a try nine minutes from full-time to bring the margin back to 11 points but it was too little, too late.
The Springboks gambled by picking a weakened side in preparation for their next hit-out against New Zealand and it paid dividends as Rassie Erasmuss men maintained their 56-year winning record at over the Australians at Ellis Park.
Earlier, a loose carry from Folau Faingaa when he should have held onto the ball and an obstruction penalty against Reece Hodge put Australia deep in their own half for the majority of the opening ten minutes before a sensational box kick from White alleviated pressure.
Springboks No.8 Francois Louw went digging at the breakdown and turned the ball over for his side.
South Africa went right and managed to expose an overlap, which saw No.9 Jantjies register a five-pointer on debut.
Foley brought scores back to 7-3 after 17 minutes with a penalty before controversy erupted over a Salakaia-Loto's no try.
The Television Match Official deemed that Kerevis last pass had gone forward into Salakaia-Lotos hands. Foley tried to take a quick conversion – knowing it might have been dubious – but the referees had every right to bring it back.
It was a critical moment to say the least.
Andre Esterhuizen was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Banks in the 21st minute and the Wallabies looked to capitalise on having an extra man.
However, the visitors went down another try when Lood de Jager picked and drived his way over the line from short range.
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half Australia had a lineout close to South Africas line. The throw was good and they tried for a driving maul but decided to use it out the back.
Kerevi managed to pop the ball out the back and Banks threw a pin-perfect pass to Haylett-Petty, who used his strength to burrow over the line.
Haylett-Petty couldnt repeat his excellent effort a few minutes later though when he dropped the ball cold over the line after a deft kick from White.