Wales outsmart Boks
MATCH REPORT: Wales completed their first November Test Series clean-sweep with a 20-11 win over South Africa on Saturday.
Wales thoroughly deserved their win, not just because they scored two tries to one, and not because of that purple patch of 10 minutes and 14 points in the first half, but because they were cleverer, better prepared, more determined, more energetic and more skilled, and defended and attacked better.
For one thing, kicking out of hand played a big role. While Anscombe was at flyhalf, the Springboks put the ball into only five line-outs, four of which were from penalties that they (the Springboks) kicked out. Wales did not kick out. That limited South Africa’s chances to get an even share of possession. Then when Dan Biggar came on, he kicked down the field to great effect and Wales had their second period of dominance – and six points – and the Springboks struggled to cope with Biggar’s boot.
If you can’t catch and pass, you cannot play rugby. That was true for the Springboks today who seem wedded to the skip pass that gives defenders time to be in good defensive positions. Handling was poor an ineffective. They lost possession too easily as a result while the Welsh kept their ball, took short passes running straight and retained possession, partly with great zest at tackles.
All of that suggests that Wales should have won by much more, but the Springboks had their own virtues but, Cheslin Kolbe apart, lacked the creativity and skill to turn their hard slog into points.
It was a cold day in Cardiff but there was plenty of warmth within the Principality Stadium with its 82 000 spectators and its cosily closed roof.
The Springboks had a change on the right wing. Sibu Nkosi had damaged a muscle in the warm-up and Cheslin Kolbe took his place on the right wing – and was brilliant. Damian Willemse came onto the bench in Kolbe’s place.
Early in the match, both sides lost a forward to a head injury – Ross Moriarty for Wales and RG Snyman for South Africa.
After the ceremonies, and while the crowd was singing Cwm Rhondda – Bread of Heaven – Handré Pollard kicked off and the Springboks attacked. In fact they came close to scoring when Pieter-Steph du Toit was over in the left corner but only after he had put a toe or two on the touchline. But then South Africa kicked and Wales attacked. After nine phases, Ellis Jenkins, who had taken Dan Lydiate’s place on the flank, sold a dummy to Malcolm Marx and burst ahead. Challenged he passed to bulky Tomas Francis who scored under the posts. 7-0 after 10 minutes.
Wales were finding ways to create holes with short passes and also overlaps as Springboks defenders came in on defence. After 11 phases, Wales had a scrum six metres from the Springbok line. They went right, Aphiwe Dyantyi came in and Liam Williams had an overlap and scored in the right corner. Gareth Anscombe converted from touch. 14-0 after 17 minutes.
In the next 63 minutes, Wales scored six points, their Springboks 11.
The first Springbok points came when Wales were offside and Pollard goaled. 14-3 after 19 minutes.
Embrose Papier broke once in the match and that once was brilliant as he raced down the left, grubbered ahead and was first to rolling ball but there was the tiniest of knock-ons as he tried to pick it up. It was a real scoring opportunity.
The Springboks battered at the Welsh defences and Jesse Kriel was over but the referee could not find a grounding in Jenkins’s tackle, nor could the TMO. That gave the Springboks a five-metre scrum. They bashed and the Welsh went offside. The Springboks opted for a scrum. They bashed and were eventually penalised. That was just before half-time, and Wales went off for a break leading 14-3.
Both sides made changes throughout the second half.
The Springboks had two five-metre line-outs. The first was the result of a brilliant penalty by Elton Jantjies, who was on for Damian de Allende, the second when Alun Wyn Jones was penalised for collapsing a maul. The Welsh quickly repelled a maul at the second line-out but the Springboks bashed and then went wide left. They came back right where a quick, accurate pass by Willie le Roux send Kriel over for a try in the corner. 14-8 after 56 minutes, which became 14-11 six minutes later when Pollard goaled his second penalty.
Then Biggar came on for Anscombe and the Welsh ran no more. But he also gathered six points for his side.
Biggar kicked an up-and-under and Jantjies knocked on. What followed is something every Under-9 player will tell you was dumb, for he has had it drummed into him that you play to the whistle. The Springboks waited for the scrum, the Welsh seized the moment, and the ball, and attacked. Dyantyi fell back to a rolling ball near his line and some Springboks gathered in defence but were unfortunate to be penalised. Biggar goaled. 17-11 with 12 minutes to play.
Le Roux kicked and Jonathan Davies countered. Du Toit hauled him down but the Springboks were penalised and Biggar made it 20-11 with nine minutes to go.
The match ended when the Springboks were penalised and Wales kicked out.
Wales have played 12 matches this year, winning 10 and losing just two. They have won their last nine matches.
South Africa have played 14, winning seven and losing seven.
In the November Tests, Wales have won four out of four, South Africa two out of four. this is Wales’ fourth successive victory over the Springboks.
Man of the Match: Apart from Cheslin Kolbe, the candidates were all Welsh – Alun Wyn Jones, their imposing captain, Adam Beard, Justin Tuperic, Liam Williams and our choice Ellis Jenkins, a late inclusion with endless energy. He personified Welsh hwyl.
Moment of the Match: Ellis Jenkins’s dummy that led to Tomos Francis’s try.
Villain of the Match: There were too much kindergarten posturing and too many scuffles. Anybody who joined in should not have but instead acted in an orderly, adult fashion.
Tries: Francis, Liam Williams
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Biggar 2
For South Africa:
Pens: Pollard, Jantjies
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin.
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 23 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 26 Damian Willemse.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Karl Dickson (England)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Timekeeper: Colin Campbell (Wales)
Citing commissioner: Shaun Gallagher (Wales)