The Springboks slumped to a fourth successive loss against Wales after succumbing to a disappointing 20-11 defeat in Cardiff on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Boks will end the year with a 50% win-loss record, while having managed just two wins from four games on their November tour.
In the lead-up to this clash, coach Rassie Erasmus suggested it would be their most challenging of the end-of-year tour, and ultimately they were undone by a wily Welsh side that boasted utterly dogged defence and contested fiercely at the breakdown.
Again, the Boks were haunted by some ill-discipline, defensive issues and poor ball security, which sees them end an up-and-down season in disappointment.
With the roof closed on the Millennium Stadium, the Boks made an energetic and ambitious start to play, and Pieter-Steph du Toit thought he had scored early on, but was found to have put a foot in touch.
Despite this start, the Boks’ defensive system then fell apart as first Ellis Jenkins brushed past Malcolm Marx to put Tomas Francis away for a try. A few minutes later, and it was the turn of Liam Williams to finish off a five-pointer after Wales found space out wide.
In the space of five minutes, the Boks suddenly found themselves staring at a 14-point deficit, which added insult to injury after S’bu Nkosi had been forced to withdraw just before kick-off and RG Snyman left the field early on.
It’s not the first time this year that the Springboks have fallen behind by a significant margin early on, and although Handré Pollard would draw three points back on the quarter-hour mark, the visitors continued to come under immense pressure on defence.
What largely kept the Boks in the game was the work of Marx at the breakdown, with the hooker winning three turnovers, but South Africa’s frustration would have grown after an extended sequence of attack late in the first half ultimately came to nought.
Although there was a sense that momentum was beginning to shift in favour of the Boks, they failed to find any real penetration on attack despite the best efforts of Kolbe, who particularly looked dangerous every time he had ball in hand.
Eventually something had to give, though, with the Boks finally managing to string an accurate sequence of attack together for Jesse Kriel to score in the corner in the 56th minute, and Elton Jantjies slotted a penalty soon after to cut the deficit to three points.
Yet just as the Springboks had got themselves back into the game, ill-discipline enabled Wales replacement Dan Biggar to knock over two penalties to open up a nine-point lead heading into the final eight minutes, and from there they held on for victory.
Wales – Tries: Tomas Francis, Liam Williams. Conversion: Gareth Anscombe. Penalties: Dan Biggar (2).
Springboks – Try: Jesse Kriel. Penalties: Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North 13 Jonathan Davies 12 Hadleigh Parkes 11 Josh Adams 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin.
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse.
Photo: David Davies/Getty Images