South Africa captain Siya Kolisi told Ellis Jenkins, “I am so proud of you” on the Wales flank’s impressive return to Test-match rugby against the Springboks.
Jenkins may have been out of the international game for three years but scarcely missed a beat as he shone for Wales during their 23-18 loss at home to Kolisi’s world champion Springboks this past Saturday.
The Cardiff Blues back rower was the man of the match when Wales beat South Africa in 2018, only to suffer a severe knee injury during the closing minutes that kept him out of rugby for 26 months.
Kolisi, who played in that Test three years ago, was impressed by the performance of his rival flank on Saturday in a match Jenkins finished as Wales captain after centre Jonathan Davies left the field.
“I remember when he got injured,” Kolisi told reporters. “Those things are tough.
“For him to fight back, return from injury and make it back into internationals just shows what kind of a character he is.
“I just said to him, ‘I am so proud of you’. He played well, and it is always hard to play against him,” added Kolisi after replacement hooker Malcolm Marx’s try seven minutes from time and a late Elton Jantjies penalty sealed South Africa’s first win over Wales in Cardiff since 2013.
Davies had been made captain in the absence of established Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones, with the veteran lock set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury that requires surgery.
Jones is among several injured British & Irish Lions unavailable to Wales coach Wayne Pivac, with Jenkins called into a back row missing Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau.
Jenkins could yet force his way into the Wales squad at the 2023 World Cup in France if he maintains the form he showed against the Springboks.
“I am very, very pleased for Ellis,” said Pivac after Wales’ second successive defeat of the Autumn Nations series following a 54-16 thrashing by New Zealand.
“He didn’t do a lot of training the week before [due to a rib injury] – certainly no contact – and to come out against a physical side, I was really pleased with him.”
The New Zealander added: “He is an important player, and with Alun injured, you need others to lead in the forwards.
“Justin Tipuric and Ken Owens would normally be there, but with those away, Ellis not only played well, but had a leadership role.”
© Agence France-Presse