The Springboks failed to move out of second gear but still edged past the game's great pretenders, writes RYAN VREDE.
To illustrate just how impotent Wales were, you need only to look at the stats for guidance. They dominated possession and territory, made the Boks tackle relentlessly and for 10 minutes enjoyed a man advantage, yet managed just five penalties. Their best scoring chance came in the 72nd minute. Seventy-second!
This, remember, is the best side in the northern hemisphere, one that scored 122 points in five matches in the Six Nations. A clutch of Lions were in their ranks, but none who made anything near a telling enough impact to oust a below-par Springbok team.
The Springboks' defence was adequate, certainly better than it had been at Ellis Park against the All Blacks. But Wales, remember, are the poor man's All Blacks, their substance never matching their swagger.
Credit to the Springboks for remaining composed in the lengthy passages of play when they were without the ball. That has much to do with the injection of experience into their ranks. Wales never looked threatening in general play, and much of that had to do with the manner the Springbok defenders bossed the tackle fight, allowing their defensive line to set. On attack, they took their chances, first hitting the Dragons with a first half one-two, then nailing a critical second-half score to bury them.
Wales will retain belief that they are the north's best hope of World Cup glory come 2015, but I don't think they know how far off the benchmark, the All Blacks, they are. They've routinely failed to put the Springboks away at the Millennium Stadium and most recently at the Cake Tin in Wellington in the 2011 World Cup, despite the Springboks being well off their best in those encounters. Wales don't have the calibre of player, astuteness of tactics, and, most pertinently, the belief that they can beat the Springboks.
The scoreboard reflects a nine-point victory for the visitors, but the gulf between the teams is much bigger than that. Much of the talk leading into the November tours has been about the north closing the gap on the All Blacks. This ideal was fuelled by England's victory over the currently hopeless Australia. Instead, the Springboks, the world's second best team at present, underlined how far ahead they are of the chasing pack.
The Springboks will know now more than ever that their primary objective remains eroding the gulf in class that exists between them and the Blacks. There is very little to worry about in those choking on their dust.
Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
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