Boks to slay Welsh Dragon ... again
Meyer’s men want to finish a tough tour with a good victory
HE SPRINGBOKS SHOULD feel that they have a score to settle with Wales. That might sound improbable as the South Africans haven’t lost to the Red Dragons since 1999, which is also their only defeat. And Heyneke Meyer’s team triumphed 2-0 in a June Test series on home soil.
But the second of those games, in Nelspruit, ended in highly controversial fashion when, in the second-last minute of the game, the Boks were handed victory after Australian referee Steve Walsh decided that a tackle from Welsh fullback Liam Williams on Cornal Hendricks, who was flying towards the tryline close to the corner flag, was a shoulder charge and warranted a penalty try.
That took the score to 30-29 in Wales’ favour, and Morné Steyn kicked the easy conversion to win the game for the Boks.
The Welsh would’ve felt that they were robbed of a momentous victory, as the Williams challenge probably should’ve resulted in just a penalty. Even Bok coach Meyer said this week that Wales “were probably the better side on the day”.
Wales are arguably a better team than what they were in June, and they’ve proved that by running the Wallabies and All Blacks close over the last few weeks, where they probably should’ve won both games. They’ve always had a strong pack and will secure enough possession, but the emergence of new scrumhalf Rhys Webb has added some spark to their attack instead of the veteran Mike Phillips, who is not the force he once was.
And then there are the usual threats of barnstorming centres Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, as well as wing Alex Cuthbert and fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who will be spurred on by a 74 500capacity crowd.
But there is no reason for the Boks to fear the Welsh, even without a number of experienced campaigners such as Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts and Jannie du Plessis.
They have been outstanding in the scrums since September in the Rugby Championship, and will be bolstered even further by the return of Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead prop.
Meyer also has serious strike-power of his own to call on such as Lwazi Mvovo and Hendricks, while Le Roux was described as the Welsh’s “tormentor” by defence coach Shaun Edwards earlier this week.
With the roof expected to be closed, the Boks need to, once and for all, sort out their problems with their finishing on attack.
Even though Meyer spoke about a “hothouse effect” at the Millennium Stadium that will render the ball wet even if the roof covers the field tomorrow but there won’t be any wind and rain to deal with at least, and they just need to find better accuracy and variety inside the opposition’s 22 than the one-off runner approach they’ve adopted so far on tour.
It will require centres Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein to attack space and look for the off-load instead of just running straight and hard at the Welsh midfield, while Patrick Lambie needs to continue taking on the advantage line like he did in the second half in Padova.
Mvovo and Hendricks are deadly when they are close to the tryline, and the Boks need to get the ball into their hands more often and stretch the Welsh rush defence across the field, even if it means putting in a few chip kicks over the top.
Otherwise, it could become a long and dreary afternoon in the Welsh capital. The home side have an ace goal-kicker in fullback Halfpenny, who will slot penalties from even inside his own half.