Planet Rugby

Boks rain on Wales' parade

05th June 2010 14:15

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south africa v wales

Bok fightback: Ndungane crosses over for South Africa's first try

Wales were left to ponder yet another defeat at the hands of South Africa in Cardiff on Saturday, following a thrilling 34-31 win by the visitors.

It was a match played to celebrate the opening of the Millennium Stadium ten years ago, but it will be the Springboks doing all the celebrating thanks to a hard-fought victory achieved by what has been described as a second string outfit.

It wasn't a classic performance from the world champions, but against a crowd 60,000 baying for the Welsh, they simply turned on the class when it was needed on both sides of half-time to ensure they started the Test season in style.

Both sides scored three tries apiece but South Africa's superior clinical edge proved crucial as they edged a physical and entertaining encounter played in perfect conditions.

Wales led 16-3 early on, but 18 unanswered points by the Springboks put them back in the game. The hosts fought their way back valiantly at the death but left it too late to snatch a win over their southern hemisphere rivals.

The Welsh went into this contest in search of just their second win in 104 years against the Springboks before heading off on a demanding tour of New Zealand. They made a purposeful start, with centre Jamie Roberts welcoming Juan de Jongh to Test rugby with a crunching tackle in the second minute.

A loose clearance by full-back Francois Steyn then gifted the hosts field position, and a blindside snipe from Mike Phillips saw Springbok flanker Dewald Potgieter come round the side of the ruck to concede a penalty. Stephen Jones slotted the simple three-pointer for a ninth-minute lead.

Hook then doubled that lead with a 12th-minute drop goal, after his kick-ahead had put Wales back in South Africa territory.

South Africa had seen little of the ball although the excellent Ruan Pienaar got them on the board with a 17th-minute penalty, after Wales prop Adam Jones was guilty of holding on in the tackle. But that was wiped out almost instantly by a second penalty from fly-half Jones as the visitors were guilty of obstruction at the restart.

Wales' fine opening quarter was completed when captain John Smit threw a wild pass which was intercepted by Hook for a simple try, converted by Jones for a 16-3 lead and the Springboks desperately needed an effective rebuttal.

Gradually the visitors settled, showing a greater appreciation for ball protection at the tackle point and this aided their cause immeasurably. They upped the tempo, testing the Welsh defence through numerous phases and forcing breakdown infringements, one of which Pienaar converted to narrow the lead to ten points.

Ensuring a quicker ruck recycle was one thing, but stringing together incisive attacks with new back-line combinations against a well organised and committed defence was another challenge altogether.

South Africa's attacks often crabbed cross-field and when they did finally break the Welsh resistance it was ugly as the ball was shovelled wide to Odwa Ndungane who got smashed in the act of touching down in the corner.

It would be the winger's last contribution of the match, but it was a significant one given the impetus it gave his side even though Pienaar failed with the conversion.

Young Wales wing Tom Prydie then dropped a high ball which was seized upon by opposite number Gio Aplon. The Welsh scramble defence infringed and Pienaar trimmed the lead to just three points.

Wales led 16-14 at the break, but the Springbok onslaught continued at the start of the second half as the increasingly influential Pienaar launched an attack from deep.

The move carried South Africa into the 22 and a wonderful offload from lock Danie Roussouw put Potgieter in for a try. Pienaar completed a sequence of 18 unanswered points with the conversion which also gave his side the lead for the first time.

Wales hit back as Sam Warburton snaffled a loose ball to force a penalty, allowing Jones to kick his third of the game, but Francois Steyn replied in kind with a monster kick from just inside the Welsh half to re-establish a five-point lead.

The game looked over when a Welsh attack was turned over and De Jongh broke through to cross behind the posts on the hour mark, Pienaar's conversion made it 31-19 to the visitors.

Wales piled forward in desperate need of a response but their attacks lacked the cohesion and tempo they had shown in the opening quarter. They thought they had given themselves a lifeline when lock Bradley Davies was propelled over the line - but referee Alan Lewis ruled the ball had been held up.

However, they were not to be denied as swift hands from Lee Byrne put Prydie over for his first Test try in the corner, Jones missed the conversion so the gap remained at seven points.

Pienaar slotted his fourth penalty, but Wales kept coming as Leigh Halfpenny picked up a spilt ball from Bok substitute Zane Kirchner before flank Sam Warburton sent Wales replacement Alun Wyn Jones in for a try, converted by Jones, to set up a grandstand finish

However, it was not enough as the world champions held out.

Man of the match: For Wales, James Hook was the pick of the backs while Sam Warburton excelled in everything he did. As for the winners, it was a good day for debutants Francois Louw and Gio Aplon while Juan de Jongh and Dewald Potgieter showed they have a bright future ahead of them. But it was South Africa's old warhorse Danie Rossouw that stood out the most - especially in the second half where he was simply outstanding. It was here that he made a telling break and neat offload for Potgieter's try and generally returned to his dominating best with ball in hand as the match wore on. A massive physical presence.

Moment of the match: With two minutes remaining, Alun Wyn Jones' converted try gave Wales a sniff within three, which had the entire Millennium Stadium crowd on the edge of their seats.

Villain of the match: Nothing to report on the field, but the boos ringing from the stadium whilst Ruan Pienaar lined up his fourth and final penalty was a wee bit uncalled for.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Tries: Hook, Prydie, Wyn Jones
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Jones 3
Drop: Hook

For South Africa:
Tries: Ndungane, Potgieter, De Jongh
Cons: Pienaar 2
Pens: Pienaar 4, Steyn

Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 James Hook, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Ryan Jones (c), 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Jonathan Thomas, 5 Deiniol Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Huw Bennett, 17 John Yapp, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Rob McCusker, 20 Richie Rees, 21 Dan Biggar, 22 Andrew Bishop.

South Africa: 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 François Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Meyer Bosman, 21 Zane Kirchner, 22 Bjorn Basson.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

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