The Wallabies, who won the Webb Ellis Trophy in 1991 and 1999, will now face arch-rivals New Zealand in this weekend's semi-finals at Eden Park. On the other side of the draw Wales will meet France in a match that will decide who is cock of the north in world rugby.
Host nation New Zealand ran out 33-10 winners against Argentina in Auckland to stay on course for their first title since 1987. A late burst of points, allied to 18 from the boot of Piri Weepu, saw the nervy All Blacks move one stage further than they managed four years ago.
The British & Irish Lions travel to Australia in 2013, so a Wales v Australia final could be a precursor to what might be in store in two years time. Wales had eight of the 2009 Lions tourists in their 22 man squad for their quarter-final victory over Ireland, with wing Shane Williams grabbing one of his side's three tries to take his Test tally to 58 (56 for Wales and 2 for the Lions).
Australia had the young star James O'Connor to thank for their win over the Springboks as he kept his cool to kick the 71st minute penalty that put his side back in front after they fell 9-8 behind. Skipper James Horwill had earlier bagged the only try of the game.
The Wallabies were forced to make 147 tackles in a match in which South Africa dominated territory and possession. By contrast, the Springboks made only 53 tackles during the game.
David Pocock was named as the man of the match for his outstanding performance in the Wallabies back row and if Australia do go on to face Wales in two weeks time, in either the final or the 3rd place Play-Off, his battle with Welsh skipper Sam Warburton will be one of the highlights of the tournament.