Another even contest between Wales and a Southern Hemisphere side, this time South Africa, once again saw Wales on the wrong side of the score board.
Positives were there for all to see and Wales Head Coach, Warren Gatland, eluded to them. However the time for Wales to be buoyed by simply staying with the ‘big three’ (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia), is gone.
After a successful Lions Tour down under, with the majority of Welsh players involved, now is the time for results. Win’s against the best sides in the world. That is what has to happen if Wales harbour any realistic ambition of challenging for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Will Gatland and captain, Sam Warburton be happy with Saturday’s performance? Or will the result bring a dent in confidence heading in to the rest of the Autumn Test Matches? Here are my thought’s on the Test Fifteen.
Front Row - The British and Irish Lions trio of Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Gethin Jenkins lined up for Wales. All three contributed to an effective set piece both at the scrum and the line out. With Wales winning the majority of all their ball. Adam Jones went off injured and his fitness will have to be monitored closely because of his importance to the team. Hibbard and Jenkins were particularly good in the loose. With both making a large amount of tackles at key stages in the match and carrying ball effectively.
Second Row - Alun Wyn Jones and Bradley Davies formed an impressive partnership particularly in the line out. Often a weakness for Wales, on Saturday it was a strength. Alun Wyn Jones, Welsh stalwart and British and Irish Lion was his usual abrasive self, aggressive in the tackle and at the breakdown. However Jones' showed a lack of discipline at times which was unusual for him and cost his side penalties on several occasions. Which at Test level was punished.
Back Row - Sam Warburton, Wales and Lions' captain, Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau both Lions' also, formed the Welsh back row. Warburton impressed and was one of Wales' best players. He was very good at the breakdown as always, strong in the tackle and had an immense work rate.
Faletau had a good first half but in the second half instead of making yards and providing Wales with attacking positions, he was stopped at source. Lydiate disappointed. He usually works so well in combination with Warburton, Lydiate uses his 'chop tackle' and Warburton is over the top on the jackal. But overall the entire back row were outplayed by the likes of Francois Louw and Willem Alberts. Imposing figures, athletes and phenomenally aggressive in contact.
Wales conceded nineteen turnovers. Which is a huge amount for any team let alone at Test level. South Africas' strength and power coupled with Welsh runners' being isolated led to this. Without improvement Argentina, known for their forwards will relish the breakdown in Wales' next Test.
Halfbacks' - Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland. Phillips' counterpart Fourie Du Preez, man of the match, was instrumental.
The thirty-one-year-old Pretorian was everywhere, his work rate was huge. His clever kicking and tactical genius was evident. He crossed to score also, all be it in fortuitous circumstances. Replays showed Jacque Fourie was offside, in front of Du Preezs' kick in the build up to South Africas' try. Priestlands' kicking game was ineffectual, in fact Wales' kicking game was. What is usually a strength, with high kicks and great chases from the likes of Roberts, Davies and Halfpenny putting the opposition under pressure. Was a weakness.
South Africa kicked effectively, chased even better and put Wales on the back foot.
Centres/Midfield - Jonothan Davies is in the form of his life, leading on from Australia and the Lions tour. Made 112 metres in the brief period he was on the pitch. He broke the South African line plenty of times. And was a huge positive for Wales.
However he went off injured and was replaced by Ashley Beck. Both Beck and Scott Williams are relatively inexperienced at Test level and this was evident. There was a lack of creativity and a kicking game. Jean De Villiers and Jacque Fourie were both very good and their experience and class outshone the Welsh in midfield.
Back Three - Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Liam Williams. Williams went off injured and was replaced by Hook. The back three didn't have a huge impact, they didn't have enough ball to make a difference. North had seven touches compared to his twenty-two on debut against South Africa. Halfpenny kicked his goals as ever. Hook was creative and is best employed at ten or twelve. However Gatland would rather use him as a utility back.
Wales were out played in the first twenty minutes. After that they competed physically. Broke the line several times and created chances without playing particularly well. However the telling statistic is that South Africa scored three tries and Wales zero. Too many basic errors and a lack of composure cost Wales in a game which was there for the taking.
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