Warren Gatland was so frustrated with this result that he admitted to kicking over a few tables in the Wales dressing room after the game. It was the same old story for Wales and their head coach – close but no cigar.
It’s twice in six months that they’ve been within a few points of beating South Africa for only the second time in their history, but with the world champions sure to have a few big names back in time for their next meeting at the World Cup it looks unlikely that Wales will break their duck next year.
Ryan Jones – cheered loudly by the crowd when he came on as a replacement for Andy Powell – said afterwards that Wales just need to beat one of the Tri-Nations teams and that will be their defining moment. Only the All Blacks are left to visit this autumn and that might just be a stretch too far.
Wales played superbly in this match, cutting the Springboks with ease in the first half to score two great tries, but the visitors experience told in the third quarter. They raised the intensity, the forwards carried with power and they scored two tries in two minutes to take the lead and Wales just couldn’t find a way back in front despite a succession of late penalties.
Here’s my verdict on the good and the bad for Wales:
Two tries on debut – although he looked offside for the second from a Stephen Jones cross-kick – and offered himself constantly in attack, happy to take the ball into contact or look for gaps. Looked solid in defence too.
Not as dominant as against the Wallabies but still won a few penalties/free-kicks and it is proving a real strength of their game. It didn’t seem to suffer from the loss of Gethin Jenkins before kick-off either.
Alun Wyn Jones
He was immense be it at the set-piece, in the tackle, with the ball in hand and so on. Wales will want to see him put in this level of performance in every Test from now on – and his team-mates should look to match him.
Wales had chances to score more tries but tended to make the wrong choices in attack. They often went to the backs too early rather than drawing in defenders through the forwards, players failed to straighten their running lines to bring in defenders and create space, and Tom Shanklin should have passed rather than grubbering through towards the end.
54,000 for a Test against South Africa – Wales need to rethink their ticketing policy and prices because they need to be selling these big games out. And those that did turn out need to remember rugby’s ethos of respecting the kickers when they go for goal.
Those are my thoughts – what did you think of the game? Who stood out for you? Who do you want to see in the side to play Fiji?