Boks their own worst en­emy in fluffed tour fi­nale

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI vata.ngob­[email protected]

WALES (14) 20 SOUTH AFRICA (3) 11

THIS may have been far from the re­sult the Spring­boks were seek­ing to end their tour of the north­ern hemi­sphere on a high but there were enough signs to sug­gest that the South Africans will be a force to be reck­oned with come next year’s Rugby World Cup in Ja­pan.

Hav­ing come into this en­counter with a clear up­per hand over the Spring­boks with three con­sec­u­tive wins and the same amount of wins at Cardiff, Wales looked ev­ery bit the bet­ter side of the two as they dom­i­nated the score­board from the be­gin­ning un­til the fi­nal 20-11 re­sult.

It was a de­served re­sult for the home side as they ab­sorbed the early pres­sure ap­plied by the vis­i­tors and it was when they had ball in hand that they got the bet­ter of the Spring­boks.

With their first at­tack into the Spring­boks’ dan­ger zone they were well re­warded for their pa­tience and pre­ci­sion when it was their turn to make the most of their at­tack when prop To­mas Fran­cis crashed over in the ninth minute.

And from the vis­i­tors en­joy­ing a large part of the pos­ses­sion and ter­ri­tory stakes in the early ex­changes, it was the hosts who fol­lowed Fran­cis’s try with a spir­ited ef­fort as they dou­bled up their score with an­other try by Liam Wil­liams six min­utes later.

As much as the tide had seem­ingly turned for Wales in the se­cond part of the first half, it was the Spring­boks who were once again their own worst en­e­mies as they lack of pre­ci­sion on at­tack and ill-dis­ci­pline at crit­i­cal times cost them dearly.

The same overzeal­ous­ness that saw the Spring­boks spill over vi­tal pos­ses­sion was their Achilles heel on de­fence with Mal­colm Marx fall­ing vic­tim to a deft dummy for Fran­cis’s try and Jesse Kriel and Aphiwe Dyan­tyi jump­ing the gun on de­fence for Wil­liams’s score.

The Spring­boks des­per­a­tion to get over the white­wash more so af­ter Kriel was de­nied a try late in the first half saw them make an im­ma­ture de­ci­sion by choos­ing a try in­stead of go­ing for the easy three points and with that they went into the half-time in­ter­val 14-3 down to the hosts.

The se­cond half was al­ways go­ing to be a tightly con­tested af­fair with the home side valiantly hold­ing on to their slen­der lead while the Spring­boks were the ag­gres­sors.

Spring­bok coach Rassie Eras­mus made the nec­es­sary changes to speed up the game and even though it got the de­sired ef­fect his ad­ver­sary War­ren Gat­land was equal to the task by bring­ing on more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who brought calm­ness to a game that was quickly be­com­ing er­ratic and fall­ing into the hands of the vis­i­tors.

The ar­rival of trusted goal-kicker Dan Big­gar for Wales proved cru­cial for the hosts stay­ing ahead of the Spring­boks on the score­board as the re­place­ment fly­half slot­ted over two penal­ties af­ter Kriel had scored a try to bring the Spring­boks to within five points of the hosts.

It was Big­gar’s se­cond penalty seven min­utes from the end that took the game away from the Spring­boks but it wasn’t for a lack of try­ing from the vis­i­tors as they con­tin­ued to com­mit ele­men­tary er­rors and mak­ing the wrong de­ci­sions when it mat­tered the most.

In the end, Wales showed why they re­main two places above the Spring­boks on World Rugby’s stand­ings and have gone nine matches un­beaten.

How­ever, the Spring­boks will need to take a hard look at them­selves to fully com­pre­hend why it is that they fin­ish this end-of-year tour with only half the num­ber of wins from four Tests and a less than fifty per­cent win record this year.

As much as the Spring­boks were beaten by the Eng­land and Wales on this tour, it mir­rored ev­ery­thing wrong about them this year hav­ing shown in­tent and pur­pose but strug­gled to make the most of the op­por­tu­ni­ties they had cre­ated.

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