Boks come back from the dead
Boks come back from the deadSHARE
A late penalty try saw the Springboks claim a dramatic 31-30 victory over Wales in a match dominated by the whistle of referee Steve Walsh in Nelspruit.
The Curse of the Second Test struck again. So it seemed for 78 minutes of the Test in Nelspruit on Saturday when the Welsh seemed to be turning their heavy defeat in Durban into a glorious victory in Nelspruit.
Too often down the years, starting in 1910, the Springboks have followed a resounding first-Test victory with a second-Test defeat. With eight minutes to play, Wales were leading 30-17. With two minutes to play Wales were leading 30-24. With just over a minute to play, the Springboks led – for the only time in the match – 31-30 and that was the final score, which produced mixed emotions whichever side you were supporting.
For Springbok supporters the best emotion was relief and lots of admiration and sympathy for the Welsh. For the Welsh there was at worst disappointment in defeat and at best soaring pride at the performance of their team so badly crushed in Durban. Suddenly losing seemed more praiseworthy than winning.
Wales's second half in Durban was an improvement on the first and they built on it to dominate the first half in Nelspruit and lead 17-0 after 23 minutes with no escape hatch for the bewildered Springboks. But then yellow cards and penalty tries sank Wales. playing with 13 men at one stage in selfdestruction. While they had men in the sin bin the Springboks scored 14 points, from nought. When Flip van der Merwe was in the sin bin in the second half, Wales scored three points. Just three. And then two penalty tries were awarded against Wales – two, which must be some sort of record, and the second one cost them the match.
Even the most ardent Springbok supporter would feel sorry for the Welsh – not that he would want to swop the result.
In Durban, Wales could get hardly any ball and certainly not quick ball; in Nelspruit the Springboks struggled for possession and got precious little of it.
The whole of Wales started at the rate of knots and behind those fiery forwards Mark Phillips was so impressive, far faster to act and react. He was a different player. Wales kicked and chased and competed for the ball in the air much more than the Springboks did. They competed with energy at the tackle, they scrummed well enough and they took the chances on offer. Later in the match Victor Matfield's men were better in the line-outs, except for one throw at a five-metre line-out. But South Africa had nothing like the strike power of Wales. They also could not manage the simple drill of catching a rugby ball – not out of the air, not when passing. Part of the result of poor handling was that Wales had three times as many put-ins into scrums.
From the first line-out after Morné Steyn had kicked off, the Springboks attacked but Duane Vermeulen knocked on. From the first scrum in Welsh territory Phillips went on a long run. Jan Serfontein tackled him but Wales were on the front foot. George North bashed his way over JP Pietersen.
When Jannie du Plessis was penalised at a tackle, Dan Biggar, who had missed a straightforward penalty attempt, goaled and Wales led 3-0 after 13 minutes.
But there was no need to worry. After all they had led 3-0 in Durban before the deluge started. This time Wales did the deluging.
From a scrum on their right they went left and Alex Cuthbert did a scissors with Biggar and raced past Vermeulen. Tackled by Serfontein the strong wing popped a pass to Jamie Roberts who was over under the posts. 10-0 after 20 minutes, and still it was not the end.
Wales grubbered a long way downfield and the ball went through Pietersen's legs, as often happens in village cricket. The Springboks saved the situation but Wales were on a furious attack. Liam Williams was close as they edged to their right and a pass to Cuthbert saw the big wing power through Serfontein's tackle and score. 17-0 after 23 minutes.
Wales had scored 14 points in three minutes. How much more was there to come for the Springboks looked out of the game?
They got back into the game with their penalty-lineout-maul sequence.
They drove the first maul forward and Luke Charteris went in the side and collapsed it. That saw him sin-binned and a five-metre line-out and another maul. This time Gethin Jenkins was penalised.
Another penalty and another line-out but this time the ball was overthrown and Wales kicked out but not as far as their 22.
Another line-out, another maul, another collapsed and this time there was a penalty try. 17-7 after 32 minutes and Biggar was in the sin bin. Wales were down to 13 men. Could they do a Rorke's Drift?
From the kick-off the Springboks went far right and Pietersen broke on a long run from inside his 22. Well into Welsh territory he gave to Willie le Roux who meandered to the right before throwing a long and perfect pass to Cornal Hendricks who scored his second Test try in his second Test. 17-14 after 35 minutes.
Charteris returned to play and half-time came at 17-14.
Wales were close to scoring when Steyn tried a wild and uncourageous flykick at the ball and Wales were on the Springbok line where Matfield battled to save. Wales attacked and Jonathan Davies was close. They bashed on the left and hooker Ken Owens was awarded a try. 24-14.
The Springboks were chasing the game, eschewing penalty kicks at goal in search of tries. They won a tighthead at a scrum five metres from the Welsh line but knocked on. But then they kicked a simple penalty to make the score 24-17 after 55 minutes. But from the kick-off they were penalised. 27-17 after 56 minutes.
Van der Merwe was reckless in the air and yellowcarded. While he was absent the Springboks suffered mightily in the scrums conceding three penalties in quick succession, one of which Biggar made into three points. 30-17.
From a scrum on the right Hendricks broke and the Springboks went through 13 phases that ended when Le Roux ran wide and across the field, stopping the Welsh defence before bursting through to score. 30-24 with 8 minutes left.
Tension amongst all the crowd of 25 424 was tangible.
A penalty gave the Springboks a line-out but instead of mauling they went left and played to Hendricks. They bashed and then went right where Le Roux threw a perfect pass to Hendricks who was just in from the touchline. Hendricks managed to squeeze past North and headed for the corner, but Williams charged across and dived at the wing, shoulder first. Hendricks was knocked into touch.
There was a meeting involving referee, assistant referee and TMO. The eventual decision was that the tackle was illegal and in fact foul play and that without Williams's intrusion Hendricks would have scored. And so the referee wandered off to the posts and awarded a penalty try. 30-29. Steyn converted for victory.
There was just over a minute to play. Biggar tried two drop gaols and failed with both.
There were mixed feelings when the final whistle went.
Man of the Match: Willie le Roux again made things happen. Fourie du Preez was as smooth as a scrumhalf can be and Duane Vermeulen was a bull. For Wales there was Jamie Roberts at centre, Mike Phillips at scrumhalf, especially in the first quarter of the match and throughout the match, our choice of Man of the Match Alex Cuthbert on the right wing.
Moment of the Match: The drama of the second penalty try.
Villain of the Match: There were the yellow cards but worse could well have been the nightclub performance of the South African anthem before the match – an occasion too solemn for a revealing dress and show-off singing.
This came after the regal appearance of Victor Matfield ahead of his team to acknowldge the marvellous feat that he was now South Africa's most capped Springbok of all time.
For South Africa:
Tries: Penalty try 2, Hendricks, Le Roux
Cons: Steyn 4
Tries: Roberts, Cuthbert, Owens
Cons: Biggar 3
Pens: Biggar 3
Yellow card: Luke Charteris (Wales, 30 mins – Deliberate infringement), Dan Biggar (Wales 32 mins, Deliberate infringement) Flip van der Merwe (South Africa, 58 mins – Dangerous tackle)
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Francesco Pastrana (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)