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We went minute-by-minute for this morning’s World Cup quarter-final between South Africa and Australia in Wellington.

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FT: South Africa 9-11 Australia

Morning all. It doesn’t quite have the buzz of yesterday’s early start, but the World Cup quarter-finals are still ongoing and this one should be a doozy.

It’s South Africa v Australia from Wellington, and we’ll have minute-by-minute coverage right here.

Don’t dare move.

Australia: Beale; O’Connor, Ashley-Cooper, McCabe, Ioane; Cooper, Genia; Kepu, Moore, Alexander; Vickerman, Horwill; Elsom, Pocock, Samo.

South Africa: Lambie; Pietersen, Fourie, de Villiers, Habana; Steyn, du Preez; Steenkamp, Smit, du Plessis; Rossouw, Matfield; Brussow, Burger, Spies.

Bryce Lawrence is our referee in Wellington this morning. Let’s play rugby.

The battle of the front rows is going to be very interesting this morning, and the Boks have already laid down a huge marker, chewing up their opposite numbers and spitting them out in the game’s first scrums.

A nervy start with a couple of mistakes from both sides, but South Africa are on the front foot with Habana and Pietersen in particular making good yards. Robbie Deans will be a little bit concerned about the missed tackles creeping into the Wallabies’ game early doors.

Brilliant by Jean de Villiers, less so by Pat McCabe who just rolls over as the big centre barrels past him. Australia get away with it however as de Villiers’ pass fails to go to Habana’s hand and Cooper can clear deep in South African territory.

TRY! (Horwill, 12′) Well well well, that’s definitely against the run of play. South Africa show an uncharacteristic lack of control at the lineout, McCabe makes amends for his earlier missed tackle by securing possession and captain James Horwill comes from well behind the line to blast through and force his way over the line.

O’Connor can’t land the conversion, but Australia will be delighted nonetheless. South Africa 0-5 Australia

South Africa are rocked, absolutely rocked. On two separate occasions since Horwill’s try, Kurtley Beale has been allowed to waltz through their line. Unless the Boks can start plugging those gaps — and fast — Australia are going to stretch their lead.

PENALTY! (O’Connor, 17′) They’ll stretch that lead anyway as James O’Connor composes himself before nailing a run-of-the-mill penalty. South Africa 0-8 Australia

South Africa look to have set themselves up in a promising position with a scrum inside the Australian 22, but as Burger bullies his way towards the line, it’s turned over and the Wallabies clear. Bryce Lawrence is happy that everything is legit and above board but the replay shows that there were definitely Australia hands in the ruck. Lucky, lucky boys.

Miguel Delaney reckons now is as good a time as any to dust off this old classic. I can only imagine Victor Matfield blaring this out in the South African dressing room beforehand.

James O’Connor is penalised on the half-way mark for not releasing the ball on the ground. This is Frans Steyn territory of course, but he’s not here today, so Morne lines it up to have a go…

MISSED PENALTY! (Steyn, 28′) Steyn’s effort has the legs but not quite the accuracy as it drops right and wide. That certainly won’t deter him from having another go from that distance later.

Unbelievable work by David Pocock, proving just why he is regarded as one of the best number sevens in the game. He has been immense in the opening half-hour, most recently in forcing a penalty from the Boks as they tried to recycle the ball four or five yards from the Australian line.

Both teams are making plenty of mistakes now, cancelling each other out. Australia overthrow their lineout, allowing Fourie du Preez to launch an attack. Before he has a chance to use the ball, however, he knocks it on under pressure from Genia.

It’s a little bit all over the place at the moment.

PENALTY! (Steyn, 39′) South Africa finally get some points on the board and it’s no less than they deserve after dominating territory and possession in this opening period. I think it’s Samo who is penalised for going in off his feet at the ruck. Steyn nails it. South Africa 3-8 Australia

MISSED PENALTY! (Steyn, 40+1′) Genia is penalised as he tries to smuggle the ball over the line to end the half, leaving Steyn with a kick to nothing from the left touchline, about 50 yards out. Again, the distance is good but it’s never really on target and Australia touch it down to end the first half.

HALF TIME: South Africa 3-8 Australia

A quick look at the Twitter would suggest that I’m not the only person to notice the Australian proclivity for using their hands in the ruck. In fact, one might suggest that Bryce Lawrence is the only person not to notice it.

Yeah, I went there.

The teams are just making their way back onto the field for the second half. South Africa had a staggering 84% territory in the first half, yet they still trail by five points. Can they show a bit more killer instinct in this second period or are the defending champions on their way home?

Quade Cooper gets us underway in the second half.

The Boks have started this second half the way they ended the first — with lots of ball in hand, stretching Australia’s defensive line. But again, after doing the hard task of working it through multiple phases, they turn it over cheaply. So frustrating.

Oh dear. South Africa think that they’re finally in for a try as Lambie touches down, but as the Boks fans in the stadium erupt, they realise that Bryce Lawrence has signalled for a forward pass. Watching the replay of de Villiers’s final pass to release his full-back, I think the referee has got this one right. It was tight though.

Again South Africa break, this time through Habana who was shown the outside by James O’Connor. And again, play is called back by one of Bryce Lawrence’s assistants for a forward pass. Gah.

Two changes for the Boks: Hougaard on to replace Habana, and Bismarck du Plessis comes on for Smit.

PENALTY! (Steyn, 55′) Hello hello, Morne Steyn lands a penalty to take South Africa to within two points. The final 25 minutes of this game should be an absolute belter. South Africa 6-8 Australia

What is Quade Cooper’s problem? How can one player tread such a fine line between genius and liability? His 22 dropout is blocked down by Bismarck — yes, you read that correctly — and Australia only manage to lift the siege when Danie Rossouw is pinged for going in off his feet. The Boks are shooting themselves in the foot here.

DROP GOAL! (Steyn, 60′) Another twist in the tale. With shades of Joel Stransky in the 1995 final, Morne Steyn sits himself back in the pocket and slots the dropper to take South Africa into the lead. Wow. South Africa 9-8 Australia

Quade Cooper is having an absolute mare. There, I said it.

(Watch him score the winner in the 80th minute now.)

What an incredible passage of play. South Africa hammer away to within five or six metres of the Australian line but David Pocock — who else? — stays on his feet and does some incredible foraging to turn it over. Before he’s even got a chance to get back to his feet though, Will Genia’s attempted clearance is charged down. It’ll be a scrum to Australia five metres out…

And again, it’s another comedy of errors. Australia turn it over to du Preez but before he can take three steps and touch down, he knocks it on himself. Incredible.

And now it’s the Boks’ young full-back Lambie who sees his name in lights, trying an audacious drop goal to stretch the lead to four. It’s so painfully close, but drops just wide. We’re talking about inches here. Inches.

Ten minutes to play. This may not be the kind of quality that we have come to expect from these two teams, but it is absolutely gripping.

Danie Rossouw, what are you thinking? One of the most experienced players on the pitch concedes a ridiculous penalty, pulling down Radike Samo at a lineout. Big penalty for James O’Connor…

PENALTY! (O’Connor, 71′) Nailed it. Australia lead by two. Only a fool would try to predict how this epic encounter will end. South Africa 9-11 Australia

A drop goal will win this for the Boks. With that in mind, they’re looking to increase their options, possibly by bringing Butch James on for Jean de Villiers.

Less than five minutes to play. South Africa try to work their way into the Australian half of the pitch but Rocky Elsom has been studying the tape from Ireland’s win at Eden Park. He holds up the attack with a choke tackle and Australia will have the put-in to the scrum.

Genia tries to pin South Africa back with a box kick but it’s touched down in goal. Twenty-two drop-out to South Africa.

Two minutes to play. Australia work it through the phases in South African territory, but the Boks have turned it over…

Thirty seconds left. South Africa have possession inside the Australian half but not quite in drop goal range…

Knocked forward. They’ve knocked it forward. Australia have the put-in to the scrum and they need to hold firm because Steyn could kick the penalty from here. If they kick it out, it’s over.

FULL TIME: South Africa 9-11 Australia

The Australia front row stands up when it has to and Genia is able to scramble the ball into touch. Australia are through; South Africa, the defending champions, are out.

The curse of the Webb Ellis trophy continues. No champion has ever successfully defended their crown and, despite having a whopping 76% territory and 56% possession this morning, South Africa will not be bucking that trend this year.

If those stats seem incredible to the point of being incorrect, let me assure you that they’re right. The corollary is that Australia have just put in the defensive performance of the World Cup, led by the man-mountain that is David Pocock.

South Africa didn’t help themselves, unfortunately. Not only did they turn the ball over time and again in point-scoring positions, but they kicked away far too much possession. Sitting in the dressing room now, they’ll know that they’ve shot themselves in the foot.

That’s it from Wellington, but fret not, we’ll be back up and running in a few minutes for New Zealand v Argentina in Auckland. Do pop over to our brand new liveblog and say hello.

About the author:

Niall Kelly