Rugby / Championship / South Africa Demolishes Australia 31-8 in Pretoria

The wing crossed in the 29th, 61st, and 79th minutes, adding to scores by fullback Zane Kirchner and flanker Francois Louw at Loftus Versfeld, where Australia has not won in six visits.

Bryan Habana scored a hat trick as South Africa partly shrugged off its struggles in the Rugby Championship with a 31-8 victory over an injury-ravaged Australia team on Saturday.

The wing crossed in the 29th, 61st, and 79th minutes, adding to scores by fullback Zane Kirchner and flanker Francois Louw at Loftus Versfeld, where Australia has not won in six visits.

"Today was about execution," Habana said, "and we wanted to play a high-tempo game. We used the opportunities, everyone was switched on and it was good to get my hands on the ball."

The Wallabies were left struggling after a raft of injuries but pulled a try back in the second half through replacement Mike Harris before eventually finishing with 14 men. Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau came off with injury and couldn't be replaced as the Wallabies had already made their seven changes.

"South Africa played well, give them credit," Australia coach Robbie Deans said. "There was a lot of spirit, I guess, but obviously the circumstance at the end was bizarre. Against the Springboks, at Loftus, it would have taken a superhuman effort to win (with the injuries )."

South Africa moved to second in the tournament standings behind New Zealand, but the real test of whether the Boks have turned the corner under Heyneke Meyer after a disappointing away leg will come next week against the world champion All Blacks.

Australia's bruised squad limps to Argentina for its final game of the southern hemisphere tournament, with Deans saying he will have to call up more players.

Young flyhalf Johan Goosen had a steady first start for South Africa after replacing the dropped Morne Steyn, linking well with his outside backs to help create the two first-half tries.

But it was Habana, who took his test tries tally against Australia to nine, overtaking the previous record of seven by winger Breyton Paulse, who benefited from a change to open and attacking tactics in perfect conditions at one of the Springboks' favorite grounds on the highveld.

Having scrambled over from close range for his first, South Africa's record tryscorer broke clear after a quick lineout he took himself to go 40 meters for his second. Habana capped South Africa's five-try victory when he finished off a long-range counterattack with a minute to go for his 46th test try.

Fullback Kirchner touched down for South Africa's first in the 22nd and Louw barged over from a rolling maul in the 54th, and South Africa won its first game since its tournament opener against Argentina in Cape Town.

"It's always easier coming back home and playing on the highveld," coach Meyer said. "I'm just very happy for the side. I've said to the team we have to keep our feet on the ground, next week we have got a very big challenge (against New Zealand )."

Harris scored in the right corner midway through the first half for a brave reply after clever work from Australia's new No. 10 Kurtley Beale, but the Wallabies didn't get any closer than 26-8 as they struggled for possession and field position and were beaten at the breakdown.

The 20-year-old Goosen missed his first two kicks at goal to be pulled from kicking duties, but sparked the Springbok backline with the ball in hand for the two first-half tries, first helping create the overlap for Kirchner to go in for the first points in the 22nd.

Habana went over after Goosen again threatened twice either side of the breakdown 10 meters out. Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar eventually made the telling half-break around the fringe of a ruck and slipped a short pass for Habana to score with a sprawling dive.

Pienaar converted for 14-0 as Australia's backline disintegrated. McCabe, winger Digby Ioane, fullback Berrick Barnes and Ashley-Cooper all went off for treatment in the first 40. Barnes and Ashley-Cooper had to be replaced permanently.

Beale gave Australia its only points of the half with a penalty from in front in the 35th, but it was a brief respite for the Wallabies. Ashley-Cooper was knocked unconscious in a last-ditch tackle on Kirchner just before halftime that saved another try, while Barnes went off with a chest injury.

Louw scored at the start of the second half after a maul from a lineout splintered the Australian forwards and left wing Ioane struggling to hold back the tide.

Habana collected his second try when he threw a quick lineout to hooker Adriaan Strauss. Strauss passed back to the speedster, who burst clear from about 40 meters out and went in under the crossbar.

Australia responded five minutes later as Beale finally had good ball to work with deep in South Africa's territory. He looped around cleverly, shrugged off a South African tackler and put replacement Harris away in the right corner.

But Habana scored his third with a minute to go when he benefited from a breakout to again use his pace to outrun Australia's depleted cover defense down the right wing.