Possession and territory no help as canny Boks smother Wales

2013-11-11 00:00

THE Welsh had the possession and they had the territory, but it was the Springboks who scored the tries in winning an often brutal international 24-15 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday night.

The Springboks spent most of the evening in defensive mode, unable to regularly gain an attacking foothold in Welsh territory. But the South Africans took their few try-scoring chances clinically and their defence, shaky to start, improved with time as they effectively smothered every Welsh attack.

Most of the match statistics were in Wales’s favour, but the Springboks were superior in the one that mattered, the try count of 3-0.

While the Springboks missed far too many first-time tackles, their scrambling defence successfully denied the Welsh. The South Africans’ kick-and-chase game was also highly effective and the Welsh battled under the high ball.

The Springboks’ brawny backrow of Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, with their aggressive gang tackles, dominated the gainline and the Welsh, with position and possession, but not helped by the early injury to centre Jonathan Davies, lacked an attacking edge.

The scrums, on the slippery, cabbage-patch Millennium pitch, were a mess and as confusing to those watching as to referee Alain Rolland. Unable to decide who was the culprit, Rolland finally compromised by yellow-carding a prop from each team (Wales’s Gethin Jenkins and Bok replacement Coenie Oosthuizen) for failing to keep up the scrum.

There were worrying moments early on for the Springboks when Wales centre Jonathan Davies twice carved up their midfield to win penalties.

But the Springboks then fashioned an excellent try after 11 minutes with Bryan Habana’s pace and Bismarck du Plessis’s power combining for captain Jean de Villiers to score. It was a 60-metre move that left Welshmen Liam Williams and Davies prone and both were forced to leave the field.

The influential Du Plessis scored five minutes later as he corkscrewed over following a driving maul and the Boks were 17-6 ahead after 17 minutes. Morné Steyn, who had kicked a penalty and both conversions, left the field with back spasms and Pat Lambie switched to flyhalf with Willie le Roux taking the field at fullback.

The Boks were punished for their poor discipline with flank Francois Louw yellow-carded for dangerous play at a ruck while Leigh Halfpenny kept popping over penalties to narrow the half-time deficit to 17-12.

The Welsh were back in the game after 54 minutes when Halfpenny landed his fifth kick (17-15) as the lottery at the scrums continued, but the Japan-based pair of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and centre Jaque Fourie, who otherwise had a quiet game, then created a slick try that effectively killed off the Welsh challenge.

Du Preez’s instinctive left-foot chip into space down the touchline was chased by a marginally off-side Fourie who poached the ball and his sublime inside pass sent the Bok scrumhalf over for a try that took the Boks into a 24-15 lead.

Wales, under coach Warren Gatland, have now lost 21 of their 22 Test matches against southern hemisphere giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.

“We were more clinical on attack than Wales, but I’m not happy with the performance,” said Bok captain De Villiers.

Wales skipper Sam Warburton admitted it had been a frustrating outing.

“We had the belief that we could win, but it was not to be,” he said.

“At 15-17 in the second half, we were in control but one loose pass and we got punished badly.

“You make one little mistake against these teams and you pay the price,” he added.

Scorers

Wales: Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny (5)

South Africa: Tries: Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Fourie du Preez. Conversions: Morné Steyn (2), Pat Lambie. Penalty: Steyn

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