PRETORIA – This may have been far from the result the Springboks were seeking to end their tour of the northern hemisphere on a high but there were enough signs to suggest that the South Africans will be a force to be reckoned with come next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Having come into this encounter with a clear upper hand over the Springboks with three consecutive wins and the same amount of wins at Cardiff, Wales looked every bit the better side of the two as they dominated the scoreboard from the beginning until the final 20-11 result.
It was a deserved result for the home side as they absorbed the early pressure applied by the visitors and it was when they had ball in hand that they got the better of the Springboks.
With their first attack into the Springboks danger zone they were well rewarded for their patience and precision when it was their turn to make the most of their attack when prop Tomas Francis crashed over in the 9th minute.
And from the visitors enjoying a large part of the possession and territory stakes in the early exchanges, it was the hosts who followed Francis try with a spirited effort as they doubled up their score with another try by Liam Williams six minutes later.
As much as the tide had seemingly turned for Wales in the second part of the first half, it was the Springboks who were once again their own worst enemies as they lack of precision on attack and ill-discipline at critical times cost them dearly.
The same overzealousness that saw the Springboks spill over vital possession was their Achilles on defence with Malcolm Marx falling victim to a deft dummy for Francis’ try and Jesse Kriel and Aphiwe Dyantyi jumping the gun on defence for Williams’ try.
The Springboks desperation to get over the whitewash more so after Kriel was denied a try late in the first half saw them make an immature decision by choosing a try instead of going for the easy three points and with that they went into the half-time interval 14-3 down to the hosts.
The second half was always going to be a tightly contested affair with the home side valiantly holding on to their slender lead while the Springboks were the aggressors.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus made the necessary changes to speed up the game and even though it got the desired effect his adversary Warren Gatland was equal to the task by bringing on more experienced players who brought calmness to a game that was quickly becoming erratic and falling into the hands of the visitors.
The arrival of trusted goal kicker Dan Biggar for Wales proved crucial for the hosts staying ahead of the Springboks on the scoreboard as the replacement flyhalf slotted over two penalties after Kriel had scored a try to bring the Springboks within five points of Wales.
It was Biggars second penalty seven minutes from the end that took the game away from the Springboks but it wasn’t for a lack of trying from the visitors as they continued to commit elementary errors and making the wrong decisions when it mattered the most.
In the end, Wales showed why they remain two places above the Springboks on World Rugby’s standings and have gone nine matches unbeaten.
However, the Springboks will need to take a hard look at themselves to fully comprehend why it is that they finish this end-of-year tour with only half the number of wins from four Tests and a less than fifty percent win record this year.
As much as the Springboks were beaten by the England and Wales on this tour, it mirrored everything wrong about them this year having shown intent and purpose but struggled to make the most of the opportunities they had created.
Wales: (14) 20
Tries: Tomas Francis, Liam Williams. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (2). Penalty: Dan Biggar (2).
South Africa: (3) 11
Try: Jesse Kriel. Penalties: Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies.@Vata_Ngobeni