A rusty Springboks defeat Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. The final scoreline was 23 to 18. This was a hard-fought encounter, with the Springboks only taking the lead for the first time after 70 minutes. This was the Springboks first victory in Wales since 2013.
Springboks defeat Wales
Although this match was very tense and exciting to watch, it wasn’t a classic. The Springboks were a touch lethargic and made many mistakes, especially at ruck time. Wales were not very adventurous and kicked a lot of possession away. They were reluctant to kick for the corner when awarded penalties in the Springbok half of the field. They opted for the three points instead. The difference between the two teams ended up being a lineout driving maul try by replacement hooker Malcolm Marx.
South Africa 23 – Try: Malcolm Marx Penalties: Handre Pollard 4, Elton Janjties and Frans Steyn
Wales 18 – Penalties: Dan Biggar 6
The Springboks were very rusty at the beginning of the game and were repeatedly and correctly penalized for not supporting their own body weight at the breakdown trying to turn over possession. They were also pinged for side-entry at the ruck, giving Wales a number of early get-out-of-jail free cards. Speaking of cards, Ox Nche was yellow carded for changing his line of defence, putting the Springboks under pressure for ten minutes. His first act on returning to the field was to be penalized for a side-entry at the ruck.
It took time for the Springboks to adjust to the refereeing calls, but discipline did improve through the game.
With recent history still fresh in the memory, any game involving South Africa will involve comments regarding the quality of refereeing. To be fair, Paul Williams and his team got most calls right and did enough to not attract a social media meltdown. If we are to be critical of one element of the officiating, it would be at the lineout. Wales nullified the South African driving maul by driving in under their locks at lineout time before they landed their feet on the ground.
There wasn’t enough on display to create an hour-long video to submit to World Rugby. Hopefully, more attention can now be paid to the game itself. The narrative that every referee is incompetent or biased needs to be put to bed.
Frans Steyn continues to shine
Steyn replaced fullback Damian Willemse, who failed a Head Injury Assessment (HIA). He took the opportunity to turn in a man-of-the-match performance. At 34 years of age, don’t count Steyn out from considering making a bid for one last Rugby World Cup. This is not an unrealistic thought. We cannot forget the guiding role that Schalk Brits provided during Rugby World Cup 2019. Bob Skinstad fulfilled the same role at Rugby World Cup 2007.
Expectations for the rest of the tour
Many will not fully comprehend how difficult it has been for this Springbok squad. What they have achieved after 2 years not playing as a team and developing, to taking on the British and Irish Lions and then straight into a Rugby Championship. Many players had not been home for five months to make this happen. They drew a lot of negative comments for how they went about their game, but they stuck to their processes.
The Springboks have ticked off one game out of three. They will face Scotland on 13 November and England on 20 November. The question now is how they handle these two games. There have been many calls for some squad experimentation and to blood some of the younger players. It is difficult to see this happening though. There may be a surprise selection for the last two Tests of the year, but winning is everything in South African rugby. If an experimental team loses against either England or Scotland, the young players blooded are likely to be written off by the public as not good enough for the international stage.
The likelihood is that Nienaber will chase a 3-0 return out of this tour.
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