Wales replacement Ryan Elias scored a late opportunistic try to condemn the Springboks to a 22-20 defeat in their season-opening Test in Washington. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Rassie Erasmus era has begun with an uninspiring defeat. Regardless of the fact that the real litmus test will come against England in the upcoming three-match series, the nature of the performance in this one-off Test would have still been a source of real disappointment.
In what was meant to be an opportunity for a number of fringe players to make their mark, there were very few who made any meaningful impression.
The Boks did produce an improved second-half performance that enabled them to overturn an 11-point deficit and move briefly into the lead with less than 10 minutes to play, but a charge-down kick from Rob du Preez then gifted the match-winning try to Elias. And in fairness, the Springboks did not deserve to win this match.
Although this clash held Test-match status, the opening half exposed what a farce it was. Both teams – for various reasons – came into the clash with second-string lineups, and it showed during an error-filled opening stanza that was predominated by a litany of scrappy scrums in a painfully stop-start affair.
In what was deemed to be a money-making match, it was also a largely uninspiring crowd that turned up in Washington, while the quality of the contest would have done little to invigorate the so-called aspiring American market.
From a South African perspective, the handling and kicking of a mix-match Springbok side looked woefully inept, with the only points in the first half coming via a penalty to Elton Jantjies.
It spoke volumes about the Boks’ inability to offer any real threat on attack, while their all-round disorganisation proved costly as Wales scored twice before the break through Hallam Amos and Tomos Williams.
Facing an 11-point deficit, the Springboks came into the second half desperately searching for a lifeline, which was duly provided by a loose pass that enabled Travis Ismaiel to score soon after the restart.
Just before the hour mark, Wales then saw Owen Watkin sent to the sin bin for a cynical offence within the in-goal area, and in his absence the Boks were able to draw the scores level as Makazole Mapimpi was put away to score in the corner.
As momentum began to shift towards the Springboks, so they also began to dominate at scrum time, and it was from a penalty won at this set piece that Du Preez slotted a 73rd-minute penalty that put the Boks into a match-winning position. However, it was Du Preez’s error that then gifted Wales the win just moments later.
For Wales, it’s a third successive win over the Boks, while ensuring the Erasmus era begins in inauspicious fashion.
Springboks – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies, Rob du Preez.
Wales – Tries: Hallam Amos, Tomos Williams, Ryan Elias. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (2). Penalty: Anscombe.
Springboks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Oupa Mohojé, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit (c), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Rob du Preez, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Wales – 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 6 Seb Davies, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Nicky Smith.
Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Hadleigh Parkes.
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images