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Kings Park, Durban - This time last year Willie le Roux was a contender for the best fullback in the world, by the end of the November tour to the Northern Hemisphere he was the heavyweight contender for that title and now he is the undisputed incumbent after a flawless attacking display against Wales that created three tries for his teammates plus adding a gem of his own, a sweet nudge-and-gather that put the Boks out of sight at 28-9 at half-time.
It was as good a day in the green and gold as any kid could have dreamed of as the 24-year-old made tries with grubbers, floated passes, loping runs and then scoring that magical solo try of his own.
He handled the high ball with perfect judgment and kicked well out of hand. He literally could not put a foot or hand wrong, and Le Roux will put this performance in his treasure chest of achievements and take it out in the future should he have any cause to doubt his ability.
Older fans watching this match might consider his approach to using the ball positively akin to Springbok and Welsh greats HO de Villiers and JPR Williams respectively, and, while he has a way to go to reach those heights, he is certainly on the right track. Incidentally, it was almost 40 years ago to the day that JPR infamously incurred the wrath of the Kings Park faithful when, as fullback for the touring British Lions, he launched a flurry of fists on Natal captain Tommy Bedford.
He was loathed that day but wherever JPR was watching his precious Wales team on Saturday, he would have applauded the performance by a young South African fullback who was told a year ago by Heyneke Meyer that he could not be seriously considered as a long-term option for the Boks until he polished up his high ball game and his ability to kick out of hand.
Le Roux’s ability to excel out wide was created by a significantly better performance by the Springbok forwards than those of the visitors.
If we had to be straight forward, Wales in this match were rubbish. They were expected to be serious contenders to win this match but instead joined a very long queue of Wales teams that have never won in South Africa since the countries began hostilities in 1906. In 28 internationals between the teams, Wales have won just once, in Cardiff in 1999.
Wales were without a handful of first-choice players, but the Springboks were without almost a team of first-choice starters, and much more was expected of the visitors.
The Springboks delivered above expectations and they almost put 40 points past a team that expected to run the Boks close.
The Welshmen started the game lively enough and that earned them a three-point drop goal lead via flyhalf Dan Biggar.
Then Le Roux got going with a grubber that put Bryan Habana away. Not long after, No8 Duane Vermeulen ploughed his way through two defenders for the Boks’ second score, converted by Morné Steyn
Biggar then kicked his second drop goal before Le Roux slipped through the outside gap between outside centre and wing to put Habana away for his second try, again converted by Steyn.
Few critics had predicted the Boks would be 21-6 up after 20 minutes, two of the tries after centre Jamie Roberts had been binned for 10 minutes for a foul in the air on Le Roux.
The back of the Welsh effort was broken just before half-time when Le Roux brilliantly scored his individual try. It was magnificent stuff, and the Welsh had no way back from a deficit approaching 30 points. Le Roux’s perfectly-timed pass made a try on debut for Cornal Hendricks, and a consolation try by Wales wing George North barely added respectability to the score-line.
SOUTH AFRICA (28) 38
Tries: Habana (2), Vermeulen, Le Roux, Hendricks. Conversions: Steyn (5). Penalty: Steyn
WALES (9) 16
Try: Cuthbert. Conversion: Hook. Drop Goals: Biggar (2). Penalty: Biggar