Boks continue dominance over Wales
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Cardiff – South Africa maintained their winning dominance over Wales on Saturday with a brutal 24-15 victory based on a suffocating blanket defence and an unerring knack of doing the basics well.
The Springboks scored three tries through captain Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Fourie du Preez, fly-half Morne Steyn bagging two conversions and a penalty, Pat Lambie also hitting a conversion.
Wales had just five Leigh Halfpenny penalties to their credit, meaning that under coach Warren Gatland, they have now lost 21 of their 22 Test matches against southern hemisphere giants New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, the exception a 21-18 win over Australia in 2008.
Their sole victory over South Africa, in 27 internationals stretching back 107 years, came back in 1999.
The match at the Millennium Stadium was one of attrition, notably in the first-half when a series of high-impact collisions saw Wales forced into three replacements and South Africa one.
But for all of Wales' endeavour, they could not breach a Springbok line led superbly by lock Eben Etzebeth and hooker Du Plessis, the pair also instrumental in their side's effective driving maul and disruptive line-out play.
An electric start after an emotional rendition of the Last Post in mark of Monday's Armistice Day saw Wales centre Jonathan Davies burst through four tackles.
A Springbok infringement at the proceeding ruck gifted Halfpenny an opening penalty, swiftly levelled by Steyn at the other end.
Halfpenny kicked his second penalty after Davies again scythed through the Bok midfield in a frantic passage of play, but South Africa responded in magnificent style.
Steyn found Bryan Habana in space in his own 22m area, the Toulon winger accelerating past Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard and passing inside to Du Plessis, whose offload De Villiers juggled before grounding despite Mike Phillips' desperate tackle.
Wales were forced into two replacements, with Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies both injured in the build-up to the try, James Hook and Ashley Beck coming on.
The visitors spurned two penalties from kickable distances, and the gamble paid off against a Wales side in disarray, Du Plessis showing great strength to drive over from a slick line-out move to Duane Vermuelen at the back.
A second Steyn conversion and suddenly it was 17-6 after 18 minutes, the Springbok fly-half then also going off injured to be replaced by Willie le Roux.
Halfpenny clawed back six points with his third and fourth penalties, Wales dominating possession but unable to maximise their pressure in the danger zone.
With tempers raised, Bath flanker Francois Louw saw yellow for driving his forearm into a prone Hibbard, and Wales threw everything they had at the Boks, but the visitors' blanket defence held firm until half-time.
The second period started off quite disjointedly, Halfpenny bagging a fifth, long-range penalty in the 54th minute after prop Gethin Jenkins, outstanding in the loose, forced Bok debutant Frans Malherbe into collapsing a scrum.
Malherbe was immediately subbed off but Irish referee Alain Rolland had lost patience and when the next scrum also went down, Jenkins and replacement Coenie Oosthuizen were sent to the sin-bin, meaning uncontested scrums.
Lambie, who'd slotted into fly-half from full-back, then scuffed a snatched drop-goal and a penalty attempt as Wales upped their defence against a rattled Springbok team.
But two old heads currently plying their trade in Japan came to the rescue, recalled centre Jaque Fourie following up on a speculative Du Preez clearing kick, flicking the ball inside to the scrum-half who scooted under the posts for a simple try Lambie converted. – Sapa-AFP