Wales fall short of creativity against South Africa

Warren Gatland’s side find themselves unable to translate try-scoring chances into points

 South Africa’s captain Fourie Du Preez runs in to score the winning try against Wales six minutes before the final whistle  at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

South Africa’s captain Fourie Du Preez runs in to score the winning try against Wales six minutes before the final whistle at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

 

South Africa: 23

Tries: Fourie du Preez, Pens: Handre Pollard (5)

Wales: 19

Tries: Gareth Davies, Cons: Dan Biggar, Pens: Biggar (3)

At the final whistle red jerseys slumped to the turf, on their backs, their hunkers, hands on knees, on heads, the desolation and sheer physical brutality of the defeat etched on their faces.

The Welsh players didn’t die wondering. They expended everything in pursuit of an odds-defying victory, courageous in heart, strong mentally but ultimately undermined by glitches between creativity and execution.

As they had done against Australia, Wales could not translate try-scoring opportunities into points, an insurmountable shortcoming. In some respects they weren’t undone by the ravages of injury that had taken so many of their numbers during the tournament, or been bamboozled by the Springboks, but instead must reflect on self-inflicted wounds.

Wales conceded 12 penalties, seven of which were in kickable range, with South African outhalf Handré Pollard landing five; transgressions that were primarily careless and in timing, momentum killers. Most of the time that the Welsh scored they immediately handed back points.

Outstanding

George North was sent clear down the left wing and as the cover converged he had a chance to give the supporting Gareth Anscombe a scoring pass but instead delayed a fraction of a second.

The wing had to check then because Anscombe ran into the space, through no fault of his own. The Welsh recycled and in a matter of seconds created an overlap, this time in the opposite corner.

Jamie Roberts came on a short line that saw the move stall briefly but his side were still numbers-up out wide. However prop Gethin Jenkins’ basketball-style pass drifted over three players’ heads and into touch.

Soon after secondrow Luke Charteris elected to take contact in the South African 22 when Wales had players screaming for the ball but another overlap was spurned: with each failure a little confidence was sucked from the marrow of the Welsh team.

South Africa were unapologetically direct: Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen (he made a whopping 90 metres in carrying) and the rest of the behemoths in the pack, ran hard and straight. It was a simple game plan: carry aggressively, box-kick, cross-kick and get Damian de Allende or Jesse Kriel who cutback against the grain.

Leading the way

Dan Lydiate

The cumulative effect of defending particularly took its toll in the final quarter when the Springboks started to make gain-lines and beyond with ease. Remarkably, it wasn’t until six minutes from the finish that the Welsh defence finally sundered.

The Springbok scrum engineered a mini-wheel towards the touchline, discommoding Wales just enough for Vermeulen to physically occupy two tacklers and then flick a beautifully weighted, one-handed offload behind his back to captain Fourie du Preez.

Wales coach Warren Gatland refused to cavil afterwards: “I don’t want to make any excuses [about Wales’ injury list]. At the end of the day South Africa won the game and we weren’t good enough to win.” The tone was softer than the words convey but the sentiment was correct.

SOUTH AFRICA: W le Roux; JP Pietersen, J Kriel, D de Allende, B Habana; H Pollard, F du Preez (capt); T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, F Malherbe; E Etzebeth, L de Jager; F Louw, S Burger, D Vermeulen. Replacements: A Strauss for B du Plessis 12-23 and 55 mins; T Nyakane for Mtawarira 56 mins, J du Plessis for Malherbe 60 mins; J Serfontein for Kriel 67 mins; W Alberts for Louw 67 mins; P-Steph du Toit for Etzebeth 67 mins; P Lambie for Pollard 76 mins.

WALES: G Anscombe; A Cuthbert, T Morgan, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar, G Davies; G Jenkins, S Baldwin, S Lee; L Charteris, A Wyn Jones; D Lydiate, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau. Replacements: P James for Jenkins 55 mins; T Francis for Lee 55 mins; K Owens for Baldwin 56 mins; B Davies for Charteris 63 mins; J Hook for Morgan 67 mins; J Tipuric for Lydiate 67 mins; L Williams for G Davies 70 mins; R Priestland for Biggar 73 mins.

Referee: W Barnes (England)

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