The Springboks slumped to yet another historic defeat, this time at the hands of a very ordinary Wales team who ran out deserving 27-13 victors at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, on Saturday.
The Cardiff Test brought the curtain down on the Boks’ 2016 year of woe and misery and the result meant that in 32 Test matches against Wales since 1906, the Boks suffered a third defeat.
The result also meant that the Boks suffered back-to-back defeats in all their three Tests on their tour of Europe.
The new-look Bok run-on side which included debutants Jamba Ulengo, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Uzair Cassiem showed flashes of enterprise at the start but failed to back it up with cohesion. Instead, their early reward came after a 6th-minute scrum penalty which flyhalf Elton Jantjies steered through the posts (3-0).
The lead was short-lived after Bok rightwing Ruan Combrinck was harshly penalised for an intercept attempt and Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny converted for a 3-all scoreline four minutes later.
It took the Welsh some time to get into their stride but they were fired up after a Jantjies kick was charged down and in the ensuing play Combrinck sprung into action with a fine instance of scrambling defence.
Welsh produced a strong passage of play as they enjoyed a surfeit of front-foot ball and their attacking variations brought out the best of the Bok defence. However, lock Lood de Jager was penalised for a line-out offence and Halfpenny rammed home to the advantage with a second penalty for a 16th-minute 6-3 lead.
A Bok 20th minute breakdown offence resulted in another penalty which was converted by Halfpenny and three minutes later Jantjies was also on target as the scoreline moved ahead to 9-6 in favour of Wales.
Towards the end of the first half, Wales picked up their momentum on attack and threatened briefly until centre Jonathan Davies was brought down 10 metres from the tryline. The effort did, however, create pressure which resulted in the Boks giving away yet another penalty and Halfpenny made no mistake from the kicking tee to double the lead at 12-6.
A disconcerting feature of the Boks’ first-half performance was losing the ball in tackle and it was one of the reasons they were left trailing 12-6 at the halftime break.
Just two minutes into the second half the Boks suffered a setback which left them 20-6 in arrears by the 46th minute. Bok scrumhalf was yellow-carded for an intercept attempt in which he knocked the ball down and Halfpenny goaled his fifth penalty (15-6).
With 14 men on the field, the Boks were unable to counter a driving maul soon afterwards and hooker Ken Owens spun free two metres out before he crashed over for an unconverted try (20-6).
From this stage onwards, there was no indication that the Boks could wage a fightback by shifting the momentum with 14 points in arrears.
Just ahead of the hour mark Wales enjoyed a few attacking sorties into the Boks’ 22m area but infringements saw them conceding two penalties which helped to relieve the pressure for the SA tourists.
With limited possession at their disposal, the Boks had little chance of making headway on attack because of handling errors and their lack of attacking nous was laid bare at the same time. While this state of affairs persisted they were staring defeat in the face despite the sporadic injection of fresh legs from the substitutes’ bench.
A massive Bok scrum in the 68th minute 10 metres out fired up hopes of making a breakthrough. Another scrum three minutes later provided the platform and Uzair Cassiem was propelled over the line – the 1 300th try in Springbok Test rugby – by a strong drive from his supporting pack. Substitute pivot Pat Lambie converted to shrink the deficit to seven points (20-13).
The seven-point boost failed to breathe new life in the Boks and in remaining second-half time, they forced to settle for a defensive role and they came up short four minutes from the end when Welsh flanker Justin Tipuric rounded off splendidly with his side’s second try. Halfpenny’s conversion pushed the scoreline out to 27-13 and that was the final nail in the Springbok coffin, leaving South African rugby dead and buried.
Scorers: Wales 27 (12): Tries: Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny (5)
South Africa 13 (6): Try: Uzair Cassiem. Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2)
African News Agency