The Wallabies have opened their Rugby Championship campaign with a rousing 41-26 victory over Argentina, dedicating the win to absent skipper Michael Hooper.
Centre Len Ikitau crossed for their fifth try five minutes after full-time in Mendoza to snare a bonus point as the Wallabies rallied from a 19-10 halftime deficit and piled on 31 points after the break.
But the win looked to have come at a cost with playmaker Quade Cooper assisted from the field with an apparent ankle injury.
The Australians entered the Test without talismanic captain Michael Hooper, who withdrew from the tour the day before the game for mental health reasons.
Stand-in skipper James Slipper said they wanted to make Hooper, who had already flown home to Australia, proud.
“It’s a real proud moment for me and also the team because we really wanted to put in an effort that our fans could be proud of and also our captain, Hoops,” Slipper said in a post-match interview.
“We were thinking about him all day and playing for him.”
The Wallabies lost another of their most experienced players when playmaker Cooper slipped on the turf while in attack seven minutes into the second half.
The 34-year-old had already missed the losing England series with a calf injury but appeared to grasp at his ankle in obvious pain, and was later seen in a moon-boot.
But the Wallabies regrouped with Hooper’s replacement Fraser McReight dragged across the line by barn-storming Test debutant Jed Holloway.
A penalty try in the 62nd minute awarded by whistle-happy Scottish referee Mike Adamson put the visitors to within two points.
Cooper’s replacement Reece Hodge then banged over a long-range penalty for the Wallabies to take the lead, 27-26, for the first time in the match.
Hooker Folau Fainga’a, in his best performance in the gold jersey, picked up the ball off the back of a maul and charged over, with Hodge adding the extras.
The opening half was a frustrating stop-start affair with a 10-3 penalty count against the Wallabies, who trailed 19-10 at the break.
The Australians dominated possession and territory but errors and poor discipline again stopped them from maximising their opportunities.
Argentina, who are coached by former Wallabies mentor Michael Cheika, got off to their best possible start with Pablo Matera crossing in the sixth minute.
The Wallabies countered through winger Jordan Petaia but kept the home side in the game through sharp-shooter Emiliano Boffelli, who booted four penalties for the game.
Springboks take down All Blacks in Nelspruit
South Africa ground down an out-of-form New Zealand to win 26-10 in the Rugby Championship opener on Saturday and pile the pressure on the All Blacks with their fifth loss in six games.
The latest blow for the All Blacks following an historic home series loss to Ireland last month was their biggest defeat to the Springboks for nearly 100 years.
The Springboks scored two tries at Mbombela Stadium, one at the start by wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and one right at the end by replacement back Willie le Roux as the All Blacks launched a desperate late attack from their own 22 in an attempt to salvage some pride.
“Yeah, we’re bitterly disappointed,” All Blacks captain Sam Cane said. “To come out on the wrong side on the scoreboard really hurts but a lot of credit must go to South Africa, they’re a very good side. They threw a heck of a lot at us.”
The Springboks were in control throughout and had a big territorial advantage to work with, although they finished with 14 men after Arendse was issued a red card in the 75th minute — while he was lying flat out receiving medical attention — for a highly dangerous charge in the air on Beauden Barrett.
Barrett was OK while Arendse left on a stretcher, the second Bok to do so. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk knocked himself out attempting a tackle on New Zealand wing Caleb Clarke after just 43 seconds.
South Africa shrugged off that early complication to settle into a gameplan aimed at strangling New Zealand and cutting off any chance for the All Blacks backs to get going.
It was highly effective. Arendse scored the first try in the eighth minute after a smart offload by centre Lukhanyo Am and the Springboks set about subduing the All Blacks with their scrummaging, merciless defence and persistent tactical kicking, which kept New Zealand pinned in its own half for long periods.
Springboks flyhalf Handré Pollard kicked 16 points to make the territorial advantage count.