The Springboks scored three unanswered tries to beat Wales 24-15 in Cardiff, reports SIMON BORCHARDT.
The Welsh did a lot of talking during the week, which prompted Jean de Villiers to say that the Boks would do theirs on the field. And they did, consigning the Dragons to their 22nd defeat in their last 23 matches against the big three southern hemisphere sides, and their 25th in 27 matches against South Africa since 1906.
The Boks' attacked well with ball in hand, stole three of the Welsh lineout throws, and achieved parity at scrum time, despite the poor pitch. The breakdown was a bit of a lottery, with referee Alain Rolland awarding several penalties while letting other infringements on the ground go unpunished. The only area in which the Boks were exposed was on defence (they missed more than a dozen tackles).
Leigh Halfpenny's boot kept Wales in touch with the Boks for most of the game, but his five penalties were not enough to beat the world's No 2-ranked team.
Wales made a good start to the match when Jonathan Davies brushed off the tackles of Jean de Villiers and Morné Steyn and took play to just outside the Bok 22. They won a penalty at the ruck, which Halfpenny sent through the posts.
The Boks hit back immediately when, following a good up-and-under by Pat Lambie, they were awarded a breakdown penalty that Steyn slotted.
Jonathan Davies again broke through the Bok defence, this time exposing Jaque Fourie, and again it resulted in a ruck penalty and three points for Halfpenny.
South Africa, though, responded in emphatic fashion, with Bryan Habana taking the ball behind his 10m line and scything through a gap between Richard Hibbard and George North, before finding Bismarck du Plessis. The hooker powered past Liam Williams and gave the try-scoring pass to Jean de Villiers. To make matters worse for the Welsh, they lost both Jonathan Davies (shoulder injury) and Williams (concussion) in that passage of play.
Five minutes later, the Boks put a kickable penalty into touch, won the lineout and set up a driving maul from which Du Plessis scored. Steyn slotted the conversion to make it 17-6, but left the field soon after, with Lambie moving to flyhalf and Willie le Roux coming on at fullback. Wales would also suffer another injury setback, losing Adam Jones to a leg injury.
Halfpenny reduced the deficit to five with another two penalties, before Francois Louw was yellow-carded in the 36th minute after a scuffle with Hibbard at a ruck. But it didn't prove costly for the Boks as Wales couldn't score any points against 14 men.
Debutant Frans Malherbe had won a couple of penalties at scrum time, but he was penalised in the 55th minute, and Halfpenny made it 17-15. Malherbe was then replaced at tighthead by Coenie Oosthuizen, who was yellow-carded at the very next scrum along with Gethin Jenkins, after Rolland had earlier warned both sides for illegal scrummaging. That saw Flip van der Merwe in the front row, and uncontested scrums for the next 10 minutes.
The Boks created a great try-scoring opportunity when JP Pietersen broke the Welsh line, but Beast Mtawarira knocked on when the ball came to him out wide. Lambie then attempted a drop goal and a penalty goal, with both attempts falling short.
But the visitors struck a decisive blow with 15 minutes to go when Fourie du Preez received the ball from a lineout and kicked into Welsh territory along the touchline. Jaque Fourie, who TV replays showed was in front of his scrumhalf, chased up and flicked the ball inside to Du Preez, who dotted down under the posts. Lambie's conversion gave the Boks a nine-point lead that they never relinquished.
Springboks – Tries: Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Fourie du Preez. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2), Pat Lambie. Penalty: Steyn.
Wales – Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny (5).
Springboks – 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 JJ Engelbrecht, 23 Willie le Roux.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Ashley Beck.
Photo: Andrew Yates/AFP Photo
Green Bok side could struggle
The Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad is light on experience as well as genuine Test options at blindside flank, inside centre and fullback, writes JON CARDINELLI.
‘Canes defence pressured Lions’
What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby final and the Springbok squad.
Boks still finding their feet
A healthy dose of patience and perspective will be required when assessing the Springboks this season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.