Springboks beat Wales 38-16 in 1st test
DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — Fullback Willie le Roux created three tries and scored another as South Africa crushed Wales 38-16 at Kings Park on Saturday in their first rugby test of two.
Le Roux was the chief architect in a dominant first-half display from the Springboks, who ran in four unanswered tries to put the game to bed by the break.
Bryan Habana extended his try-scoring record for South Africa to 55 with a brace - both of them set up by Le Roux - while Duane Vermeulen also got on the scoresheet in the first period.
Wing Cornal Hendricks’ try on debut amplified the rout as the hosts opened up a 29-point advantage after halftime, before Alex Cuthbert’s superb solo try provided some small consolation for the Welsh.
South Africa’s long injury list and disruptive buildup to the match, which saw Francois Steyn walk away from the setup due to a financial dispute, seemingly presented Wales with an opportunity to challenge.
But while the tourists made the better start and scored the first points through Dan Biggar’s dropped goal, Le Roux put South Africa on the front foot in the seventh minute when he stepped inside a defender and kicked ahead for Habana to dot down.
From that point on, the gap in class kept on widening with Le Roux imperious in the air, and flyhalf Morne Steyn immaculate with the boot as his territorial kicking kept the Welsh pinned inside their own half.
“It was a tough week with a lot of disruptions,” Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said. “I asked the guys to put their bodies on the line as it was important for us to start well, and I was very pleased with their response and effort, especially in the first half.”
The tourists certainly didn’t help themselves with a string of errors and generally struggled to deal with the Springboks’ physicality.
After midfielder Jamie Roberts was sent to the sin-bin in the 13th minute for taking Le Roux in the air, Vermeulen crashed over from close range and Le Roux opened up the Welsh defense to set up Habana’s second.
Man-of-the-match Le Roux followed up with a brilliant chip and gather to give South Africa a 28-9 lead at the break that Wales never looked likely to overthrow, before sending Hendricks to the tryline 12 minutes into the second half.
“Willie is probably the best fullback in the world at the moment - he is playing with a lot of confidence and has a licence to express himself,” Meyer said.
“I am very happy about his progress since he started on the wing last season. I challenged him to improve his aerial skills and defence last season and he did that very well.”
Wales looked to have hit back soon after when Davies darted through the Bok line and exchanged passes with Biggar before dotting down, but the final offload was confirmed as forward on video review.
Cuthbert provided some cheer for the travelling fans with 11 minutes remaining when he parted the South African defense and ran 75 meters to score, but even that could not put Wales within sniffing distance.