Home Sport Springboks break eight-year Cardiff drought

Springboks break eight-year Cardiff drought

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Handré Pollard of South Africa kicks a penalty to level the score at 15-15 against Wales during the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff on Saturday. Picture: Kieran McManus, Shutterstock, BackpagePix

At the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday the Springboks struggled to impose themselves in a stop-start affair but when it mattered most, they showed their mettle as world champions and closed out the game.

OVER the last decade, South Africa and Wales have perfected the art of tense arm wrestles and this latest encounter in Cardiff was one of the most nerve-wracking of them all.

But this time it was the Boks who crawled over the finish line in front at a reverberating Millennium Stadium, with the 23-18 victory ending an eight-year drought in the Welsh capital.

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In a game played in teeming rain and punctuated endlessly by Kiwi referee Paul Williams’ whistle, Siya Kolisi’s men had to dig deep to overcome immense frustration and then finish strongly to seize the spoils.

The Boks struggled to impose themselves in a stop-start affair but when it mattered most, they showed their mettle as world champions and closed out the game.

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From the very outset, the penalties flowed and the Boks would have been disappointed to concede three in the first five minutes which gave the Welsh prime territory and only a desperate cover tackle by Siya Kolisi stopped flying wing Louis Rees-Zammit from scoring at the corner flag, but Wales had a penalty advantage and Dan Biggar kicked the first points of the game.

The Boks hit straight back with a penalty by Handré Pollard after offside in the midfield but then criminally conceded penalty at the restart and Biggar made it 6-3, after 13 minutes, and that kick coincided with Bok fullback Damian Willemse leaving the field injured to be replaced by Frans Steyn.

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The first scrum of the game came in the 15th minute, with a Bok put-in deep in the Wales 22, and a scrum penalty was duly earned by the advancing pack and Pollard equalised with the boot.

As the game hit the 20-minute mark, a penalty won for the Boks by Bongi Mbonambi was kicked to the corner and a series of charges at the Welsh line ended when flank Ellis Jenkins turned the ball over in front of his posts, and a great scoring chance was lost.

And that hurt all the more when Wales promptly went up field and forced yet another penalty at the breakdown and Biggar nudged his team 9-6 in front.

The stream of penalties against the Boks were getting beyond a joke and when Ox Nche was penalised for obstructing a runner, he was yellow-carded, with Biggar then adding three more for a 12-6 lead at the half-hour mark.

There was comfort for the South Africans when Wales’ loosehead prop Rhys Carre was also sin-binned, for a cynical foul when the Boks were driving towards the Welsh line, but the Boks could not convert the pressure into points.

The half did end positively, though, when Pollard was able to claw back three points as the hooter sounded.

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It had been an unfortunate 40 minutes for the Boks in that their two principle strengths – the scrum and the line-out – were not factors. There was just one scrum, incredibly, and mostly because the referee insisted on playing endless advantages, and then he was completely oblivious to the Welsh forwards illegally stopping the line-out drives.

The second scrum of the match arose in the 42nd minute of the match and again the Boks scrummed a penalty out of the retreating red pack. Pollard kicked to the corner but once more the drive was thwarted.

Just five minutes into the half, the cavalry arrived for the Boks in the form of the same front row bomb squad that made such an impact in the World Cup final, and the Boks immediately laid siege to the Welsh line but their relentless surges were repelled and Jenkins won another vital turnover.

And to rub salt into the wounds, the Welsh a minute later were awarded a penalty when Jesse Kriel was caught holding on in the tackle, and Bigger restored their six-point lead.

Fifteen minutes into the half, Steyn kicked a monster penalty from inside his own half and maybe that was the catalyst the Boks needed.

And when Pollard kicked a penalty to level the scores at 15-15, the game was on a knife-edge with 20 minutes to go.

It was Wales who got their noses in front, via yet another Biggar penalty, and at that point Elton Jantjies came on to try and pull the game out of the fire with 15 minutes to go, but it was Cobus Reinach who created a moment of magic for Makazole Mapimpi to score a try, only for it to be disallowed because of an alleged offside Springbok.

But the Boks got it superbly right seven minutes from time when they bravely kicked a penalty towards the corner and this time there was no stopping the green phalanx and it was Malcolm Marx that rampaged over for the try.

Jantjies missed the conversion attempt but nailed a penalty as the hooter sounded.

Scorers

Wales – 18: Penalties: Dan Biggar (6).

South Africa – 23: Try: Malcolm Marx. Penalties: Handré Pollard (4); Frans Steyn; Elton Jantjies.

@MikeGreenaway67

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