Wales punish BumbleBoks
REPORT: Wales finish their year on a high, as South Africa continued to plummet to the depths of despair.
South Africa's credit rating is apparently sinking towards junk status. South Africa's rugby has, it seems, won the downhill race and reached there already, seemingly the lowest point ever in the proud rugby nation's history. - the first time they have lost eight Tests in a calendar year.
Last week Wales scraped a home victory over Japan with a dropped goal 12 seconds from time. This week Wales beat South Africa by 14 points and in fact deserved better than that.
Last week Italy beat South Africa in Italy; this week Tonga beat Italy in Italy.
Does that mean that South Africa's rugby rating is lower than that of Italy, Japan and Tonga?
What it certainly means that the Welsh side deserves to be ranked above South Africa, and the truth is that they played better rugby - far more effective and direct, creative, cohesive and energetic. They looked like a team determined to win, a team with a spring in its step while the Springboks plodded and hoped soon to be plodding onto homeward-bound airplane.
Every Welsh player looked if he knew why he was there and rejoiced in the opportunity. When you see South Africa win a ruck and go blind and the ball goes 9-8-5-6 (scrumhalf-No.8-lock-flank with not a back in sight) then you wonder - and that was towards Jamba Ulengo's wing.
It's also no point in picking a player like Ulengo and then leaving him on the field but out of the game except for two (forward) passes, just as there is no point in giving a flank his first cap in a match like this with fewer than two minutes to play. That's hardly a memory for Jean-Luc du Preez to cherish.
But enough. Let's get to the match.
The anthems were sung and Welsh voices filled the stadium and its 55 122 spectators with Cwm Rhondda.
Dan Biggar kicked off and Wales chased and tackled, and the Springboks cleared. A penalty got them into Welsh land and a scrum penalty against Tomas Francis gave the Springboks the lead after seven minutes. That lead lasted four minutes as Ruan Combrinck was - surprisingly - penalised for a deliberate knock-on when he raised both hands to catch a pass by Scott Williams, and Leigh Halfpenny goaled, as he did with four other penalty attempts in the match.
Johan Goosen countered and the Springboks looked to attack but Justin Tipuric charged down an Elton Jantjies chip. Combrinck saved but the Welsh were singing Hymns and Arias as their team went through 11 advancing phases. Then bad luck and bad play combined to give Wales a lead which lasted.
Wales were given the throw-in at a line-out, which seemed a wrong decision. Ken Owens threw to Alun Wyn Jones and Lood de Jager grabbed him while he was still in the air. The referee penalised De Jager and Wales led 6-3 after 17 minutes. They built on the lead for the next hour.
When Nizaam Carr was penalised at a tackle, Wales led 9-3 though three minutes later Owens was penalised for a harmless armless tackle and it became 9-6 after 24 minutes.
Part of the Springbok problem which persisted through the match was their inability to pass and catch. Passes too often went astray - seldom in front of the recipient at waist height.
Wales on the other hand were quicker and more deft. They threatened when Jonathan Davies broke past Pieter-Steph du Toit but the centre lost direction and the lock caught up with him and hauled him down.
Faf de Klerk slung a hard skip pass at Combrinck's hip and Francois Venter was offside at the knock-on. 12-6 after 33 minutes. That was the half-time score.
Securing the ball was another South African problem. The 36-year-old prop Gethin Jenkins won more turnovers than any of the South African loose forwards.
The start to the second half was disastrous for the Springboks.
Biggar chipped, caught and passed, and De Klerk knocked on with an outstretched hand. He was sent to the sin bin and Halfpenny goaled off an upright. 15-6 after 42 minutes.
Wales kicked a penalty out 15 metres from the Springbok line, mauled the line-out and rushed the maul at the line for a try by hooker Owens. 20-6 after 46 minutes.
There was a bit of aimless kicking which Wales won but two penalties got the Springboks a five-metre line-out. They mauled and drove it quickly at the line. Wales stopped them but when Uzair Cassiem got the ball, the industrious flank drove over for a try to go with his first Test cap. Pat Lambie converted. 20-13 with 10m minutes to go.
The Springboks were in a position to save the match but they did not look convincingly like doing so, certainly not after Wales attacked wide right, wide left, wide right and then left again where Tipuric took a short pass from Taulupe Faletau, burst past Carr and swerved around Goosen, who may have touched him with a fingertip, for a try near the posts. It was 27-13 with three minutes to play.
Man of the Match: Dan Biggar was wonderful - an astute and brave player who has a great knock of catching kicks - the opposition's and his own. Jonathan Davies was always a threat, Ross Moriarty was tough and Alun Wyn Jones splendid but our man of the match is the creative, tough, ball-thief Justin Tipuric.
Moment of the Match: Justin Tipuric's try which ensured a Welsh victory and was so exciting in its build-up and then in its swift, smooth execution which would have done any great centre proud.
Villain of the Match. There was not really any villainy.
Tries: Owens, Tipuric
Pens: Halfpenny 5
For South Africa:
Pens: Jantjies 2
Yellow card: Francois de Klerk (South Africa, 42 - professional foul, slapping down the ball)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts.
South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lionel Mapoe.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Greg Garner (England), Tom Foley (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)