Wales 12 South Africa 6: Three talking points
Talking points as Wales defeat one of the southern hemisphere big three for the first time since 29 November 2008
Dan Biggar shines, settles 10 debate
It is rare to see outside-halves throw themselves mercilessly into contact, but Ospreys star Dan Biggar was the stand-out player in a typically physical encounter against South Africa. If there were any lingering doubts over his status as first-choice Wales 10, they have surely been swept away as the 25-year-old steered Wales around the pitch and was huge in defence in the first half, with two notable big hits on marauding Springboks in the first half and getting stuck in. A poor drop-goal effort aside, there can be few criticisms of Biggar’s all-round performance which ultimately helped Wales end the 22-game running drought that has plagued them so much in recent years. Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked all 12 points from four of five penalty goal attempts, but Biggar’s tactical kicking and chase were invaluable, they have been so often for the Ospreys in recent seasons. There were a few handling errors thrown in, which led to Wales turning over possession, but that was a problem throughout the side. Gareth Anscombe may have performed well for Cardiff Blues on Friday night, with Rhys Priestland also shining for the Scarlets a week earlier but, with Biggar fit, there is only one man to lead Wales at the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup next year.
Poor Boks limp off on holiday
As much as all the talk from this match will be about long-awaited Wales win, there should be a healthy dose of perspective too. Heyneke Meyer’s South Africa side were quite poor in phases, although it was a fairly error-strewn game from both sides with plenty of turnovers and handling errors at crucial moments. Yes, they were missing the likes of Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen among the experienced players who had returned to their clubs with the match falling outside the World Rugby international Test window, but there was plenty of combative play from the Springboks forwards with number 8 Duane Vermeulen and lock Eben Etzebeth particularly menacing with ball in hand. Their backline, however, looked short of ideas going forward and full-back Willie le Roux looked a shadow of the player that ripped through Wales in two encounters just five months ago. It was another performance to forget on a difficult Castle Lager Outgoing Series after the opening match defeat to Ireland in Dublin. Losing captain Jean de Villiers to a dislocated knee cap in the second half was a further blow, that Meyer could have done without as was losing wing Cornal Hendricks to a contentious yellow card for colliding with Leigh Halfpenny in their air, but both incidents appeared to make little difference to the outcome. After the high of defeating the All Blacks in the final round of the Rugby Championship in October, their November series in Europe has been underwhelming from start to finish. That said, they were pretty awful in 2006 winning one of their three matches in Europe and just one of four matches in the 2007 Tri-Nations Series before winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Welsh forwards lead the way
It was far from a perfect game from Wales, and there was perhaps luck involved with the Springboks being so out of sorts, but that won’t matter much to the 23 players in the match-day squad, or Welsh rugby fans who have been so desperate for any sort of win against the southern hemisphere nations. The Welsh backs brought more enterprise than their opposition, but it was the forwards who really nailed this victory for the hosts. Gethin Jenkins, who missed the 34-16 defeat to the All Blacks last week with a hamstring injury, was as immense in the loose as he was in aiding Wales’ dominant scrum, with scant regard for a body that has now clocked up 110 Tests for Wales, while tighthead prop Samson Lee continues to impress after dethroning Adam Jones. Scarlets lock Jake Ball is also emerging as a genuine threat to Luke Charteris’s position in the engine room with another strong performance alongside Alun Wyn Jones, and there were heroic efforts from the Welsh back row of Dan Lydiate, captain Sam Warburton and number 8 Taulupe Faletau, with Warburton the standout in defence with some crucial tackles and helping himself to some turnovers for good measure. Scott Baldwin’s lineout throwing left a lot to be desired, but the lineout has been an issue for Wales all month and it’s an area that Springboks lock Victor Matfield always dominates. Not as much of a problem as it could have been.