Boks v Wales: THAT bogey analysed

Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)
Rassie Erasmus (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Only one team in the rugby world can claim to have won all of the last three bilateral contests against South Africa ... Saturday’s Cardiff opponents Wales.

That fact alone should act as a significant additional spur for the Springboks to finally claw back a victory over the Welsh at the Principality Stadium (19:20 SA time).

Simultaneously, Rassie Erasmus’s charges will be aiming to end their 2018 European venture with a three-out-of-four record, which would make it very hard even for the deepest of Bok cynics to brand it anything but a successful tour - especially considering the markedly improved collective strength of the major northern-hemisphere powers.

Three of them (Ireland, Wales and England) occupy positions two to four respectively on the current world rankings.

But the Boks have found the Scarlets especially problematic foes in recent times, having fired blanks in the result column against them an unprecedented three times on the trot.

Two of those outcomes have been at Saturday’s formidable venue - otherwise known as the Millennium Stadium - in 2016 and 2017, and the other was the dubiously-staged (but still an official international) meeting in Washington DC on June 2 this year, Erasmus’s first game at the helm and with both nations fielding highly experimental teams.

The Welsh edged that clash 22-20 after Sharks flyhalf and Bok debutant Robert du Preez, only on the field for three minutes at the time, had a kick charged down for the decisive enemy try in the 75th minute.

South Africa last savoured a win in Cardiff (24-15) during the 100 percent tour under Heyneke Meyer’s charge in 2013, although of the XV that started that Test in green and gold, only Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth (if passed fit), Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen could see service again this Saturday; Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willie le Roux were substitutes five years ago.

Despite the highly uncharacteristic surrender of four of the last five contests to the Welsh, the Boks still sport their healthiest historical win percentage against those foes (82.34%, or 28 wins from 34 encounters) of all of the formerly-known Five Nations teams.

Their win percentage against England is 59.52 overall, against Ireland it is 69.23, Scotland 81.48 and France 61.36.

The Boks’ worst sequence of losses against any of those big European teams is seven, during the period (2000-2006) where England were gradually building up for their maiden, successful World Cup assault of 2003 or were in the fading embers of that prosperous era for them.

But if Wales beat South Africa for a fourth time in a row on Saturday, they will become only the second “northern” power after the English to manage that statistic.

Ireland went through a period between 2004 and 2009 where they beat the Boks three times in a row - all in Dublin - while France have also achieved that figure once, in a spell between 2005 and 2009 (twice at home venues, once at Newlands).

The Boks’ recent woes against Wales, specifically, must be especially frustrating to South Africans who still quite clearly remember the golden stint between 2000 and 2014 when the Springboks won as many as 16 in a row against the men in red and just seemed to have their measure even in the tightest of contests.

Still, even if Wales make it four triumphs in succession against South Africa this weekend, they would have to win all of the next four bilateral clashes as well if they wished to equal the best ever sequence of victories by any country over the Boks: eight by New Zealand in a highly forgettable period for Bok fans between 2001 and 2004.

Australia, the other premier southern rivals of the Springboks, have a best run against them of five: 2010 to 2012, although it includes the highly controversial 11-9 win in a 2011 World Cup quarter-final at Wellington refereed by a certain Bryce Lawrence ...

*Wales are on a current run of eight victorious Tests against all comers, even if some were slightly watered-down internationals. (From most recent:) bt Tonga 74-24; bt Australia 9-6; bt Scotland 21-10; bt Argentina 30-12; bt Argentina 23-10; bt South Africa 22-20; bt France 14-13; bt Italy 38-14.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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