WALES were introduced to the realities of South African rugby last night as
five tries sentenced them to defeat by the Emerging Springboks at Secunda.
They were swept away by an early hurricane which saw the hosts lead 24-0
after just 21 minutes thanks to some outstanding play which yielded four
touchdowns, including a 13-minute hat-trick from wing John Daniels.
The burst settled the match, for Wales were never going to retrieve such a
But the way they stood up to the shadow Springbok team over the rest of the
match, especially at forward, will provide coaches Dennis John and Lynn
Howells with a measure of encouragement.
The pack stood toe-to-toe with the South Africans and had the better of the
scrums and the line-outs, with Ben Evans and Ian Gough catching the eye on
Barry Williams also tackled relentlessly and worked tirelessly around the
field, while Chris Wyatt underlined his potential as a Test No. 8 in the
It meant that the South African team management had to go on the defensive
in the post-match press conference to explain why their side had failed to
achieve their expected forward ***.
The refusal to cave in when faced with serious adversity, as Wales did
against England and France in the Five Nations, is a tribute to the team
spirit John and Howells have built up in the three weeks in charge.
With so many key players missing, they are on a hiding to nothing on this
tour, but if they continue to improve they may yet achieve respectability in
some provincial matches.
Even so, a five-tries-to-one defeat should not be the cue for throwing caps
in the air. In that devastating opening blitz the tourists were given brutal
lessons in ball retention, pace and clinical finishing.
Just three minutes had gone when an efficiently executed raid down the
blindside ended with centre Robbie Fleck sending Lourens Venter, playing out
of position on the wing, sweeping past the remaining cover.
Three tries and 18 minutes later the crowd were in danger of witnessing a
slaughter at Secunda, so easily was the Welsh defence being breached.
But it didn't happen. With Paul John and Byron Hayward controlling things
from half-back, and the pack sending back an increased supply of ball, Wales
were able to slow the pace of the game and frustrate the young Springboks.
For what it's worth, the tourists won the final 59 minutes 13-11. But as
Dennis John admitted, the only score that matters is the one over 80
Wales still have it all to do over the next 16 days. They had individual
pluses last night, but they are not playing whole-game rugby, have poor ball
retention and are attempting to adapt to the differing referee
interpretations in a harsh and often unforgiving rugby environment.
But under the circumstances could more have been expected? Eigh*** players
unavailable, a new coaching team installed, uncertainty over the tour until
two weeks before the scheduled date of departure -- there could hardly have
been less favourable conditions to launch a trip.
But at least Wales refused to throw in the towel. They were never in with a
chance of winning and created little until Dafydd James swept through for a
try 11 minutes from time.
But for the young side chosen, this was a defeat without disgrace.