The wounded Wallabies played the final minutes of their 31-8 defeat in Pretoria on Saturday with 14 men after they made all their substitutions early in a physical clash that resulted in five of their players being forced off with injury.
Irish official Rolland blocked the Australians from replacing injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau with Saia Fainga'a in the 66th minute saying the Wallabies had made all seven replacements.
The match was delayed for several minutes as Rolland explained his decision to irate Wallaby officials before play was resumed and Springbok winger Bryan Habana took advantage of the extra space to score his third try of the game.
"The referee was correct," the Dublin-based IRB's James Fitzgerald told Australia's Fairfax media on Wednesday only for the sport's world governing body to issue a statement later to say Rolland was wrong.
"Following an initial review, the five-strong match official team acknowledges that they failed to recognise Law 3.12 (Exception 2) when managing a substitution in the 66th minute, which meant that Australia finished the match with 14 players," the statement said.
The confusion appeared to centre on prop Benn Robinson who had been substituted but then came back on the field after his replacement Ben Alexander was injured leaving the Wallabies with one technical substitution remaining, the IRB said.
"The area of substitution management is a team effort," IRB Match Official Selection Committee Chairman John Jeffrey said.
"This was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials who fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of the substitution law.
"All match official performances, including last weekend's match, are thoroughly reviewed and assessed by the IRB and are considered when appointments are made for future test matches."
The IRB did not say if Rolland and his team would be penalised for the error, with the Irishman scheduled to take charge of the Springboks' final Rugby Championship match at home to champions New Zealand on Saturday in Johannesburg.
Rolland, a former Leinster and Irish scrumhalf, is a vastly experienced official who took charge of the 2007 World Cup final, but split opinion in last year's tournament when he sent off Wales captain Sam Warburton for a tackle in the early stages of their semi-final loss to France.