A failure to stamp their physical authority and be intelligent at the breakdowns led to the Springboks’ failure to end their November tour on a high with a 20-11 loss to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday night.
It was a fourth straight defeat to the Welsh dating back to 2013 at the Principality Stadium and confined the Boks to two defeats from their four tour matches.
Coach Rassie Erasmus will also end the year with a neutral record of seven wins and seven defeats.
Despite trailing 14-3 at half-time, the Boks were surprisingly sprightly in the second half and kept themselves in the game when it seemed they might just slack off.
But their spirit couldn’t compensate for a error-strewn performance.
Who was the star in this match?
Many a time has he been the unsung hero of the Welsh pack and captain Alun Wyn-Jones once again was the cornerstone of this Welsh effort. He doesn’t always make the headlines, but he does the dirty work superbly and makes sound and even shrewd decisions as leader.
Key moments and themes
- The Springboks set the tone for wasted scoring opportunities early after some neat passing saw Pieter-Steph du Toit cross the whitewash in the left corner. However, his foot went out of touch and robbed the visitors of a confidence-boosting good start.
- South Africa essentially lost this match during a 10-minute period in the second quarter, where they conceded two soft tries. The opening try for Thomas Francis was galling for the fact that Bok hooker Malcolm Marx missed a vital tackle due to poor technique in the build-up. Defence was once again a problem when Aphiwe Dyantyi shot up from left wing, missed his spot tackle and allowed Liam Williams to score Wales’ second try. The Boks desperately need to fine tune their rush defence on the wings.
- Erasmus’ will bemoan his side’s lack of savvy at the breakdowns, where the street-smart Welsh side were pretty dominant. It raises the question of whether the Boks can continue to play without a specialist fetcher. After all, there’s only so much Marx can do in that department. More frustratingly was the Boks’ poor handling. That’s basic for a team of this stature.
- The Boks’ attacking game needs a re-think. Except for a lack of ideas, the centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel is seemingly too one-dimensional. It was revealing that the South Africans were far more fluent once Elton Jantjies came on as flyhalf, meaning Handre Pollard switched to 12.
Wales – Tries: Thomas Francis, Liam Williams. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (2). Penalties: Dan Biggar (2).
Springboks – Try: Jesse Kriel. Penalties: Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies.