‘Cardiff catastrophe’

How South Africa's Sunday newspapers reacted to the Springboks' 12-6 defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

It wasn't meant to end this way. A year that promised so much for the Boks ended on a low note on Saturday. It was a year in which the Boks finally broke their duck against the All Blacks and showed their resolve in comeback victories over Wales in Nelspruit and Argentina in Salta. However, few would regard it as a successful year, especially in light of yesterday's performance.

The great escape never came at the Millennium Stadium after the Boks lost captain Jean de Villiers to a bad injury and Cornal Hendricks was controversially sent from the field. It was only their second defeat to Wales in 108 years, but one which highlighted the shortcomings in the current Bok set-up.

The Sunday Times pulls no punches with its headline: 'Disastrous Springboks'. In his report, Craig Ray commends the performance of the South African pack, but blames mistakes, poor discipline and bad tactical decisions for the Boks' defeat.

He leaves his most scathing assessment for replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard. 'A few minutes later, when the immense Bok pack won a hard fought penalty at the breakdown, replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard made a farcical error. He took a quick tap to himself and then kicked it out on the full. The hard work undone by an instant of stupidity,' says Ray before questioning the decision to replace Cobus Reinach.

'When the Boks' last chance to win the game came from a 5m scrum, with two-and-a-half minutes to play, Hougaard fumbled the ball and the moment and the match were gone. He is such a talented player but he is woefully short on confidence and was massively culpable in both defeats on tour.'

The back page of Rapport offers a different perspective on the Boks' demise. In his report entitled 'Cardiff-katastrofe [Cardiff catastrophe]' Stephen Nell says 'the Boks yesterday were clearly physically and mentally exhausted.' Nell notes Jean de Villiers injury as a turning point in the match, likening the loss of the talismanic captain to a 10-point swing.

'The loss of De Villiers took a huge psychological toll, and with Hendricks also off, there was panic among the Boks.'

The player ratings make for some damning reading, where a pair of sixes for Eben Etzebeth and Marcell Coetzee represents the best the Boks had to offer.

'Springboks end 2014 on low note in Cardiff,' reads the headline of the sport section in the Weekend Argus. In his match report, Ashfak Mohammed says the Boks looked 'a yard off the pace' and 'the Welsh were hungrier and smarter on the day'.

'The Welsh backline were certainly much more inventive than the South Africans on attack, with flyhalf Dan Biggar mixing up his game well with a variety of passes, attacking kicks and taking on the Bok defensive lines with ball in hand.'

A couple pages in and you'll find Gavin Rich's view on the match in Cardiff, stating that 'the Boks undeniably shot themselves in the foot in this game with yet more of the rank bad decision-making,' before suggesting that coach Heyneke Meyer may have got his selection wrong for the match against Italy.

'The Boks looked a tired and jaded team, and it again emphasises that nagging feeling I've had since Meyer named his team for the Italy Test. That was a game where he should have thrown all the youngsters into the side and kept the stalwarts back for yesterday.'

By Brenton Chelin