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24 Nov 2007 19:15
Jake White’s final Test as South Africa coach ended with a win as the world champions beat Wales 34-12 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
JP Pietersen, one of nine World Cup winners in the Springbok starting side, was in superb form, the wing scoring one of South Africa’s five tries and setting up two for centre Jaque Fourie.
The victory left White, after four years in charge, with a Test record of 54 played, 36 won, one drawn and 17 lost ahead of next weekend’s non-cap international against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
It also meant Springbok captain John Smit received the inaugural Prince William Cup from the eldest son of Prince Charles, Britain’s heir to the throne.
South Africa, in their first match since defeating England in October’s World Cup final in Paris, weathered early Welsh pressure and by the 31st minute were a commanding 22-0 ahead.
Wales, in their first match since their shock World Cup exit at the hands of Fiji and under caretaker coach Nigel Davies, ahead of the arrival of new permanent boss Warren Gatland next week, eventually got on the score board on the stroke of half-time thanks to a try from veteran back-row forward Colin Charvis.
Before kick-off a minute’s silence was observed in memory of Ray Gravell, the former Wales centre who died earlier this month. Soon afterwards, Francois Steyn’s penalty gave the Springboks an early lead.
Wales, with recalled centre Gavin Henson alongside flyhalf James Hook in a “people’s choice” half-back pairing, saw the Ospreys duo produce the occasional glimmer of brilliance but for all their possession couldn’t find a way through a resolute Springbok defence.
By contrast, the Springboks scored with their first meaningful visit into Welsh territory.
Lock Johann Muller, taking the place of World Cup winner Victor Matfield, won a line-out on halfway and the ball was worked across the field where flyhalf Andre Pretorius’s pass released Smith for a 20th-minute try.
Pretorius converted and the Springboks were ahead 10-0 ahead.
Wales should have had their first points minutes later, but Hook, on the edge of the edge of 22, somehow put a seemingly straightforward penalty attempt wide of the left post.
That Wales couldn’t afford such wastefulness was demonstrated by Fourie’s two tries either side of the half-hour mark.
After a break by scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, fine interplay between Steyn and Pietersen created an overlap for Fourie out on the right.
But with the final play of the first half, Wales at last scored some points as Charvis broke the record of Italy’s Carlo Checchinato for the most Test tries by a forward with his 22nd touchdown.
Debutant Morgan Stoddart’s clever kick ahead evaded the grasp of opposing fullback Ruan Pienaar and, from a ruck on the Springbok line, back-row Charvis plunged over for a try. Hook’s conversion, however, hit the left upright and South Africa were 22-5 ahead at half-time.
They extended their lead further six minutes into the second half when star wing Bryan Habana, the world player of the year who scored a record-equalling eight tries at the World Cup, sprinted clear of the Welsh defence and drew Stoddart before sending in Pietersen with a perfectly timed pass.
But Wales were given a boost when replacement South Africa lock Albert van den Berg was sin-binned for killing the ball.
While the Springboks were a man down, Wales saw Stoddart score a try after he collected Hook’s chip kick into the corner.
However, the Boks hit back 13 minutes from time with a try from the only debutant in their side, Ryan Kankowski, as tempers threatened to get out of control. The impressive Sharks number eight used a three-man overlap as a decoy to beat the retreating cover on the inside for a fine score.—Sapa-AFP
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