The Springboks will have to regroup quickly after going down to Wales in Washington on Saturday night, only seven days before they start a three-Test series against Eddie Jones’ England team.
The new-look Boks, who had 13 uncapped players in their matchday squad of 23, struggled in a poor first half, in humid conditions in the US capital, Washington. After trailing 14-3 at half-time the Boks performed better in the second half but still went down 20-22.
Wales scored their third and decisive try right at the end of the Test when replacement hooker, Ryan Elias, dotted down after a clearance kick by Robert du Preez was charged down. Just moments earlier a first attempt at a clearance by the Sharks No 10 was also charged down.
“We knew there would be risks involved by only coming over later in the week (the Boks only arrived in the US around mid-day Thursday), but we’re not making any excuses – the Welsh showed more determination in the end to clinch the game,” said new coach Rassie Erasmus.
“All their tries were scored as a result of kicking – a charged down kick and box kicks we failed to control – and also we committed some defensive errors. We had our chances to score, and overall I think it was the pressure, which they were able to put on us at the end, that won it for them.
“The one positive for me is that there were quite a few new players who got caps today and now know what it’s like to play against a quality team like the Welsh, but it’s still a Test that we lost, and that hurts.
“It’s never nice when you play you first Test and you lose, and we didn’t want that result, but we wanted to get all of the uncapped players on the field and start building towards the future. However, we still lost and that almost nullified the fact that we capped a lot of new players.”
The Boks’ second half tries were scored by debutant wings, Makazole Mapimpi and Travis Ismaiel, with penalty goals coming from Elton Jantjies and Du Preez.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, who captained the Springboks in the US capital, said that despite the negative outcome, the squad will ultimately benefit from the match against Wales.
“We managed to work our way through a lot of detailed preparation (last week and in the build-up to the Wales Test) so that it can also benefit us for the series against England,” said Du Toit.
“Going into the change room at 14-3 down, we realised that the first half was not good enough and that we needed to step up after the break.”
The Springboks will return to South Africa on Monday to start preparations for the first Test against England on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Springboks 20 (3) – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty goals: Jantjies, Robert du Preez.
Wales 22 (14) – Tries: Tomos Williams, Hallam Amos, Ryan Elias. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (2). Penalty goal: Anscombe.