Cape Town: South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said superior fitness and never-say-die spirit created a flattering 28-10 Rugby Championship triumph over Australia in an often scrappy Cape Town Test Saturday.
No one among the 45,000 Newlands stadium crowd could have imagined 10 minutes from time that the Springboks would score three late tries for a bonus-point victory.
But a Wallabies side that had defended bravely and often looked more threatening going forward imploded and skipper Jean de Villiers scored two tries and Patrick Lambie one.
"Our fitness levels had a massive impact on the game and I told our conditioning coach Basil Carzis as much afterwards," said Meyer.
"The Australian defence was great during the first half when we played some wonderful rugby. I could see that my guys became frustrated.
"But they refused to give up and sprinted back to our line after the third try wanting to get a fourth one and a bonus point.
"We finally managed to break them down and scored some great late tries," said the coach nearing the end of his third year in charge.
Meyer also praised his experience-packed bench for the roles they played when coming on.
"I have to thank them for their huge contributions. It was good to see that my decision to choose experienced replacements worked.
"We wanted to make our country proud and hopefully we achieved that. We battled at times, but our captain (De Villiers) led from the front."
Victory kept South Africa second on the world rankings behind world champions New Zealand and ahead of Australia.
It also moved the second-place Springboks within one point of title-holders New Zealand on the southern hemisphere championship table.
However, the All Blacks will retain the title if they claim a bonus-point victory over Argentina in La Plata late Saturday.
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Springboks over the Wallabies at Newlands since a 26-3 drubbing 22 years ago just after they came out of an apartheid-induced wilderness.
"I feel sorry for the players -- they set the game up for a win and that was not reflected in the final score. It will probably be forgotten," admitted Australia coach Ewen McKenzie.
"There was some really great stuff from our guys and we were in a good position to win. We will have to look at the video and see why we failed."
Australia led 10-5 at half-time with fly-half Bernard Foley kicking a penalty and converting a try by right-wing Adam Ashley-Cooper after a Marcell Coetzee dotted down for South Africa.
The first 30 minutes of the second half produced a solitary score -- a Springboks penalty from fly-half Handre Pollard -- leaving the visitors two points ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
Replacement fly-half Lambie, who had fluffed a simple penalty kick, atoned with a drop goal that nudged South Africa ahead.
An Australian side that had defended gallantly then ran out of steam and De Villiers twice and Lambie crossed the try-line with the fly-half converting one.
The concluding Championship fixtures next Saturday have South Africa hosting New Zealand in Johannesburg and Argentina at home to Australia in Mendoza.