The Springboks scored five tries in their 38-16 hammering of Wales on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Heyneke Meyer could not have asked for a better start to the Test season. The Bok forwards dominated their Welsh counterparts, while the backs, inspired by the inimitable and irrepressible Willie le Roux, cut the opposition defence to shreds.
The Boks scored four tries and 28 points in the first half. It was a convincing haul against what is a respected Wales defence, but the Boks may have scored even more points had they taken all their opportunities.
Not that there is any reason to complain. The Bok scrum fired and the lineout, led by Victor Matfield, was outstanding.
The backs enjoyed the momentum and Le Roux in particular caused the Welsh defence problems. And it wasn't just his footwork, decision-making and passing that proved so devastating. Le Roux often employed a chip kick as a means to fracture the opposition defence. The match at Kings Park witnessed South Africa's best attacking player showcasing the full extent of his skills.
Another South African favourite in Bryan Habana would also excel, combining brilliantly with Le Roux to score two tries. Jan Serfontein passed the test in the midfield, while Fourie du Preez and Morné Steyn produced one of their finest performances as a halfback combination.
Wales were poor in the first half. Their forwards failed to front up at the collisions, and their backs were far from accurate.
It was a lazy challenge by Jamie Roberts on Le Roux in the air that saw the Welsh reduced to 14 men in the 13th minute. The Boks put 14 points on the visitors during that period, and took control of the game.
Cornal Hendricks marked his Test debut with a try in the second half, and the other debutant, Lood de Jager, also played well when he came off the bench.
However, the Boks were less clinical during this period. Wales produced a more physical performance in the latter stages, and succeeded in frustrating the hosts. They even managed to breach the Boks through winger Alex Cuthbert, although the fact that it took all of 70 minutes for Wales to score a try is a credit to the hosts' defence.
The Boks looked disappointed when a sustained period on attack in the final minutes came to nought. It must be said that the Boks lost some direction when Steyn and Le Roux were substituted, and were often guilty of running across the field.
Nevertheless, the performance was a convincing one in isolation, and an encouraging one in the context of the series. The Boks should be expected to win, and win well, when they host Wales in Nelspruit next week.
Springboks – Tries: Bryan Habana (2), Duane Vermeulen, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks. Conversions: Morné Steyn (5). Penalty: Steyn.
Wales – Try: Alex Cuthbert. Conversion: James Hook. Penalty: Dan Biggar. Drop goals: Biggar (2).
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Aaron Shingler, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ian Evans, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.
LEATHERMAN PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Willie le Roux, the great entertainer, put on a show at Kings Park. No doubt Heyneke Meyer would have been pleased with Le Roux's performance under the high ball, as the fullback fielded every kick courageously. What would have impressed Meyer more was Le Roux's attacking contribution. Le Roux scored one try and had a hand in two more, and it was because of him that the Boks built some scoreboard pressure and took control of the contest.
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Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP Photo