SOUTH AFRICA DESERVEDLY scored five tries as they beat Wales 38-16 in Durban in the first of two Test matches between the sides.
Fullback Willie le Roux was at the heart of much of the best attacking play from the ‘Boks, displaying the mixture of handling, footwork, physical, kicking and vision skills that have made him a Super Rugby star for the Cheetahs.
Welsh head coach Warren Gatland will have been concerned by his team’s performance – despite a late revival of sorts – with their usually powerful, aggressive defence absent at Kings Park.
A solid opening passage from Wales allowed out-half Dan Biggar to fire over a smart drop-goal, but Bryan Habana came up with a swift response for the ‘Boks as he chased down a perfectly-weighted kick from le Roux to score.
Out-half Morné Steyn converted that try and also added the extras when Duane Vermeulen barged his way over on the 15-minute mark.
The imposing No. 8 took a short, hard line off Fourie du Preez’s pass to finish off a strong passage of play from the South African forwards.
Bigger struck his second drop goal as way of a Welsh response, but that failed to settle Gatland’s men into the game. Le Roux again struck with a moment of attacking inspiration, skinning Aaron Shingler before feeding Habana.
The Toulon wing had the pace and strength to beat the despairing tackle of Alex Cuthbert, with Steyn slotting the touchline conversion.
Having provided the assist for two of South Africa’s first three tries, le Roux got his own name on the score sheet just before half time, when he chipped over the Welsh defence and benefited from the bounce of the ball.
The Cheetahs’ magician regathered and stretched over, allowing Steyn to convert, meaning Heyneke Meyer’s side had a 28-9 lead at half time.
Steyn knocked over a penalty soon after the break, before Cornall Hendricks – the former sevens star making his Test debut – got over in the right-hand corner. Again, le Roux provided the scoring pass as his creative influence continued.
With Steyn’s conversion on target again, South Africa found themselves 38-9 ahead after just 52 minutes and subsequently relaxed their attacking efforts. With Gatland emptying his bench, Wales came back into the game and Cuthbert conjured a magnificent individual try.
James Hook, on as a replacement, converted that try, but Wales had nothing else to offer in terms of scoring. Gatland has much improvement to encourage in the next week, ahead of the second Test in Mbombela Stadium.