South Africa started their year-end tour of the United Kingdom in impressive fashion by beating Six Nations champions Wales 20-15 at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that although the Springbok were made to hang on desperately in the end, the two-tries-to-nil margin is as much as the South Africans deserved – even though a string of second half penalties kept the Welsh in the game.
Wales blew it!
They had the second half, certainly the last half an hour of it as the dominated territory and possession and Springboks discipline collapsed, giving away nine penalties in the time that the Welsh gave away none.
That the Welsh for all their ardour could not score a try does not speak volumes for their attacking ability. They were close on occasions but not really looking like scoring. The Springboks in the first half scored an excellent try and were close with a second when a great tackle by Tom Shanklin caused Ruan Pienaar to lose the ball at the line.
It was a game of many errors on a stirring occasion – the Remembrance Day wreaths, the magnificent anthems by the massed choir, the huge and vocal crowd, the close roof to enlarge the volume.
The occasion may well have been greater than the quality of the rugby and yet it was a game to keep you on edge to the very end.
And at the very end the Welsh really blew it.
They had a line-out, but Victor Matfield stole it,. South Africa kicked downfield and Lee Byrne, who had had a magnificent game, with not a Springbok within shouting distance knocked on. They got a penalty when Bismarck du Plessis was penalised for holding on, kicked it out and lost the line-out ball to Juan Smith. Pienaar kicked out and the Springboks had, yet again, beaten Wales.
But do not forget – Wales blew it. They may not again be in such a great position for victory.
The South Africans had individuals who played well but they had great difficulty in bringing down the Welsh who seemed able to spin away from tackles. Perhaps it was the new clothes they are wearing. South Africa will be pleased with the scrummaging. They dominated the scrums. South Africa will be pleased with the performance of Ruan Pienaar, who, apart from his general play, did not miss a kick at goal.
South Africa started well but two easily marked kicks and a penalty put Wales on the attack, though not for long.
Fourie du Preez kicked Hugh and JP Pietersen and Shane Williams leapt for the ball. Pietersen won it back for South Africa and the ball travelled left through many hands. Juan Smith was at the line and then it went back to Adi Jacobs who was over under two tackles. 7-0 after 6 minutes.
When Jamie Roberts kept on playing the ball on the ground he was penalised and Pienaar made it 10-0 after 9 minutes.
Andy Powell, who was the best ball-carrier in the match, burst away from three feeble efforts to hold him and a great back tackle by Du Preez and a penalty against Shanklin for holding on got them out of trouble.
At this stage the Springboks were kicking a lot and the Welsh were running wider, better and more often and yet there was always somebody there to stop them.
Stephen Jones missed a penalty kick at goal but when John Smith was penalised for using his hands at a ruck in accordance with IRB instructions, teenager Leigh Halfpenny slotted the kick. 10-3.
South Africa were close to scoring when they played over a line-out to Schalk Burger and hands again were slick to set Pienaar on his way to the line, but grabbed hard by Shanklin.
Martyn Williams went off-side at a line-out and Pienaar goaled to make the score 13-3 at the break.
Wales attacked and South Africa scored. That seemed to set the Springboks back at their ease, feet up, relaxed, and that was when they took the road to near defeat.
Wales were the first to attack when the Springboks tapped a penalty and Jean de Villiers threw a shocker of a pass which Halfpenny latched onto and away he scurried. Shanklin ran free but the Springboks survived strongly as Burger, Andries Bekker and Matfield got back.
Then there was a scything break by Byrne off a short pass but Pietersen’s back tackle on Halfpenny, who had Shane Williams outside of him, smothered the attack.
The score was against the run of play. Wales changed halfbacks, bringing on James Hook and Dwayne Peel. Hook’s first act was a disaster. He spun a pass towards Roberts. It did not reach Roberts. Instead that great burglar De Villiers intercepted the pass and ran easily through the empty meadow to score a try. 20-3. The game looked done and dusted even through there were 28 minutes to play.
Penalties pulled Wales up to the brink of victory./
Burger was penalised at a tackle. 20-6.
Smit was penalised at a tackle. 20-9.
Jaque Fourie was penalised at tackle and yellow-cared. 20-12.
Tonderai Mtawarira was penalised at a tackle. 20-15 with 8 minutes to play.
(The penalty count was 15-7 against the Springboks, though Fourie may well have been unlucky as he, the tackler, on his feet, played the ball when there was no ruck. Certainly the Springboks did not get the kind side of the decisions)
In these eight minutes the Springboks three times tried ridiculous drops that got nowhere near the goal line – by France Steyn, Pienaar and Jantjes.
But Matfield, Byrne and Smith contrived to get the Springboks home.
Man of the Match: There were great individual performances – JP Pietersen, Conrad Jantjes, Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger on the South African side and Lee Byrne, Tom Shanklin and resilient Andy Powell on the side of Wales. But the most effective player on either side was Ruan Pienaar and he is our Man of the Match.
Moment of the Match: Jean de Villiers’ intercept try.
Villain of the Match: There was a bit or prickliness but nothing really to get excited about.
Pen: Halfpenny, Hook 4
For South Africa:
Tries: Jacobs, De Villiers
Con: Pienaar 2
Pen: Pienaar 2
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Gareth Cooper, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Ryan Jones (c), 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Ian Gough, 19 Dafydd Jones, 20 Dwayne Peel, 21 James Hook, 22 Andrew Bishop.
Springboks: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Brian Mujati, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Jaque Fourie.