Ex-Wales stars hail win v Boks

2014-11-30 21:05
(Rui Vieira, AP)

Cardiff - Ex-Wales stars lined up Sunday to celebrate Wales' second-ever victory over South Africa, saying Warren Gatland's side were now on track for a good showing at next year's Six Nations and World Cup.

Four Leigh Halfpenny penalties, to two from Bok fly-half Pat Lambie, were enough for Wales to claim an important scalp, 12-6, at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The win improved under-pressure Gatland's record against the SANZAR trio also including Australia and New Zealand to two victories from 28 games and was a fantastic boost just 10 months away from the World Cup, when Wales are in the same pool as the Wallabies, hosts England and Fiji.

"Wales end the agony," ex-Wales captain and No 8 Eddie Butler wrote in The Observer newspaper, having also witnessed an autumn campaign that included a 33-28 loss to Australia, a scrappy 17-13 victory over Fiji and a 34-16 defeat by New Zealand despite leading with 12 minutes to go.


"Yet again in Cardiff it was all about the last few minutes. Before that there were no tries to report, no moments of extended sparkle, nothing but the ferocity that is so run-of-the-mill now that it is scarcely worthy of mention.

"Only the last few minutes counted and for the first time Wales came through them unscathed. Even in victory over Fiji they had struggled at the end. Against Australia and New Zealand they had seen the lead and the result ripped from their grasp. Here, at last, they held out."

South Africa lost their continuity when captain Jean de Villiers was stretchered off injured with a dislocated kneecap, followed by a cruel yellow card for winger Cornal Hendricks for taking out Halfpenny in the air, with a youthful and inexperienced look to their bench.

"The centre was taken away with 13 minutes to go...his exit becoming the start of the end," Butler said, adding of the finale: "This was not one for the poets, but what a place it will have in the hearts of the Welsh squad.

"A win at last against a southern hemisphere giant, a first since victory over Australia in the early days of the age of Warren" in November 2008.

"November had been a complete stinker of a month. Now it has the sweet aroma of a bonfire still aglow. There is light and there is heat in the Welsh game."

Rest period

Former Wales and British Lions fly-half Barry John, in his column for the Wales on Sunday, said the result was all that mattered.

"At last! Wales can enter World Cup year bubbly, bouyant and on something of a high, having finally taken the scalp of one of these major southern hemisphere teams," John said.

"The difference this time, though, was that the result went our way. And that, to be blunt, was the only thing that mattered.

"Wales thoroughly deserved the victory and can look forward to a little so-called rest period before embarking upon the wonderful year ahead that is 2015."

But John questioned whether the game, outside the international Test window, was one too many for both sides.

"Look, if truth be known, there was something of a staleness about the 80 minutes we saw in Cardiff," he said.

"There were two tired teams on show and it almost had the smell of one game too many at the end of a hard autumn campaign when we have competed well with the world's finest."


John added: "Gatland will know there is still lots of work to do. For the Six Nations and the World Cup.

"But let's pat the players on the back for finally stopping the rot. This was a win Welsh rugby desperately needed. Let's celebrate it."

Legendary Wales and Lions prop Graham Price concurred with ex-teammate John, saying: "It doesn't matter how you play, getting the win is the most important thing and that's what Wales did against South Africa."To get a result against a side that is regarded as the second best in the world behind New Zealand is no mean feat.

"The Springboks might be ranked that highly but it didn't show they were any better than Wales. There were a lot of mistakes from both teams but Wales came out on top on the scoreboard and I'm pleased for them."

Meyer worried

Meanwhile Boks coach Heyneke Meyer said he was not going to hit the panic button despite suffering a second defeat when they went down 12-6 to Wales on Saturday.

More of a worry for Meyer, ahead of next year's World Cup which starts in September, was the dislocated knee suffered by captain Jean De Villiers. He was taken to hospital for further tests but Meyer said he was "very worried" about his leader.

In a game in which South Africa had overseas-based players unavailable because it fell outside the test window, Meyer said his side had not had sufficient strength in depth.

"I know we are much better than this. All credit to Wales, they played well, but this being the fourth game on tour, and with some players unavailable, it was always going to be tough and we were always going to be under pressure.

Meyer said the defeat for South Africa, who could meet Wales in the World Cup quarter-finals if they both get out of the pool stage, would have no bearing if they met in the tournament.

"I still believe we're on the right track and I believe we can win it (the World Cup)," he said.

"Usually we have a very experienced bench come on to help win the game for us. But it won't have any bearing on the World Cup.

"We have a lot of great players to come back - we'll have an unbelievably strong squad. We'll be well prepared.

"We've learned a hell of lot (on tour). You have to lose games unfortunately and you have to learn from that. We learned a lot of things after (defeat) by Ireland, and against England."


Read more on:    south africa  |  wales  |  heyneke meyer  |  cardiff  |  rugby

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