It was a disappointing finish to the European tour for South Africa as they were beaten 20-11 by a tactically-astute Welsh side at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Clearly a tactical ploy by Warren Gatland, Wales limited the Boks to just 5 lineouts in the game, and managed to poach 1 of those 5. Having won all 8 of their own feeds, the Welsh were able to put a lid on a key attacking asset in the relatively limited Bok armoury.
It was a smart play that worked well on the day.
And having made the call to kick less in Cardiff, the Boks made more carries, and more metres with ball in hand, than Wales, but a failure to execute saw the visitors struggle.
Pieter-Steph du Toit (11 carries), Franco Mostert and Steven Kitshoff (both on 10 carries) were the designated ball-carriers for the Boks as they aimed to get gain-line ascendancy, but often found themselves working alone, especially in the second half. Hence the high number of handling errors and turnovers conceded – a proper momentum-killer.
In a clear departure from what had worked in the previous Tests, Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel were tasked with doing damage with ball in hand. They each made 11 carries and often skipped Damien de Allende, who only made 2 carries all game. It was an obvious attempt to add some width to their game, but that width then makes recycling the ball a lot tougher.
Both sides also had very different kicking strategies. The Boks generally kicked from 9 (Embrose Papier 7, Ivan van Zyl 3), while 12 of Wales’ 24 kicks came from Gareth Anscombe and Dan Bigger at 10. The Boks were leading the kicking contest 11-9 at half time, but ended up making 1 kick less (24-23) come full time as Van Zyl made less use of the boot.
Wales scored two early tries through Tomas Francis and Liam Williams via some poor Bok defence. Anscombe converted both and this scoreboard pressure seemed to add to what was by far the most disorganised performance under coach Rassie Erasmus.
The South Africans now return home from their month-long tour of the northern hemisphere with two wins and two losses.
“Today (Saturday) was perhaps the first time that I felt we were outplayed after we were always in with a chance in all our other games,” was the forthright assessment of Erasmus.
“They came with no surprises and we knew exactly what they were going to do, but I felt we didn’t adjust our plan like we should have. Wales were good with their kicking game and solid in defence and although we created opportunities our finishing and discipline let us down,” added Erasmus.
Skipper Siya Kolisi did manage to see some positives after the game: “We are making progress and although we are nowhere near where we want to be, we are heading in the right direction.”
A look at the match stats from Cardiff:
Points: WAL 20-11 SA
Tries: WAL 2-1 SA
Penalty goals: WAL 2-2 SA
Goal kicking %: WAL 80% – 50% SA
Possession: WAL 51% – 49% SA
Territory: WAL 39% – 61% SA
Ball in play: 38 minutes
Ball Carries: WAL 98-117 SA
Metres run: WAL 541-781 SA
Metres per carry: WAL 5.5-6.7 SA
Line breaks: WAL 1-1 SA
Tackle breaks: WAL 4-16 SA
Passes: WAL 125-180 SA
Good Passes: WAL 108-170 SA
Offloads: WAL 9-5 SA
Rucks won: WAL 80-105 SA
Rucks lost: WAL 5-5 SA
Mauls won: WAL 6-3 SA
Mauls lost: WAL 0-1 SA
Turnovers conceded: WAL 19-15 SA
Tackles made: WAL 164-124 SA
Tackles missed: WAL 19-14 SA
Tackle success: WAL 90% – 91% SA
Tackle turnover: WAL 1-0 SA
Dominant tackles: WAL 0-15 SA
Kicks from hand: WAL 24-23 SA
Metres kicked: WAL 627-578 SA
Metres per kick: WAL 26-25 SA
Handling errors: WAL 12-16 SA
Penalties conceded: WAL 8-9 SA
Yellow cards: WAL 0-0 SA
First phase stats:
Lineouts won: WAL 8-4 SA
Lineouts stolen: WAL 1-0 SA
Scrums won: WAL 11-6 SA
Scrums lost: WAL 0-0 SA
Own kickoff won: WAL 0-0 SA
Own kickoff lost: WAL 4-5 SA