Boks must down Dragons

The result in Cardiff will determine the success or failure of the Springboks' tour, writes RYAN VREDE.

The 34-16 scoreline in New Zealand's victory over Wales is flattering for the world champions. The Dragons were well in the contest until Mike Phillips' attempted clearance kick was charged down by Kieran Read, who collected the loose ball and scored. A late try gave the result an emphatic look, which really wasn't a true reflection of the contest.

Wales had roused themselves to a level of performance that allowed them to challenge the Blacks across all facets of the game. Their forwards' challenge was strong in general and set play and their back division looked potent in patches. They served another reminder to the southern hemisphere superpowers that they are no mugs, as they had done in the 31-30 defeat to the Springboks in Nelspruit in June.

Having been smashed in Durban a week earlier, Wales nearly banked a memorable victory. They've come desperately close on numerous occasions in recent history, and after the showing against the Blacks, as well as watching Ireland systematically expose the Springboks' tactical shortcomings, they will be confident of taking the points from the Cardiff contest.

The Springboks, with the personnel available to them, shouldn't lose. They could, however, undermine their cause by attempting to play expansively (and could be encouraged to do so if the Millennium Stadium's roof is closed). Ireland dealt with this expertly, defending well through numerous expansive attempts, then contesting the breakdown once a ball-carrier had been isolated. Breakdown penalties were plentiful, and if this is the case once more against Wales, Leigh Halfpenny, who, in the past three years has emerged as one of the game's pre-eminent goal-kickers, has the potential to hurt the Springboks.

I wrote last week that the victory at Twickenham was achieved through forward industry, good tactical kicking that asked England to launch attacks from deeper in their territory than they would have wanted to and physical and accurate defence. They still managed three tries, this with a relatively low-risk strategy.

I'd be happy for them to embrace these tactical fundamentals once more in search of a win that would wrap up yet another strong European tour. Failure to do so will result in the tour being deemed a failure.

Photo: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

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