Rugby Union: Blackest day for the Welsh

By Hugh Godwin in Pretoria
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The Independent Online
WALES SUFFERED the most humiliating defeat in their proud history when they were sunk without trace under a deluge of 15 South African tries at Loftus Versfeld yesterday.

There have been plenty of black days in modern times for Wales but this was the blackest of the lot as they were played off the park, completely outgunned up front and hopelessly out-paced behind as the Springboks turned a total mismatch from an exhibition into a rout.

The new list of "unwanted" marks include most tries and points ever conceded, eclipsing the 12 and 63 respectively run up by Australia in 1991, not to mention a record margin of defeat.

With morale at rock bottom at the end of a torturous tour Wales were, quite simply, not even second division material, a fact that the South African coach Nick Mallett confirmed when he said: "Wales were one of the weakest international sides I have ever seen. We have to keep our victory in perspective. Wales did not have very much to offer. I'm quite happy to keep playing teams like this and rewriting the record books."

Wales's problems had started even before the start, the captain and scrum- half Rob Howley becoming the eighth tour casualty when he was forced to pull out with hamstring trouble, the flanker Kingsley Jones taking over the captaincy. Things then went from bad to worse, to the unthinkable.

Because although Wales went off in confident style, winning quality early possession and putting South Africa under pressure, their only reward came in the shape of a 47-metre Arwel Thomas penalty goal and that advantage lasted barely five minutes before the reality began to set in.

Percy Montgomery levelled matters with a simple penalty goal - the full- back going on to rack up 31 points - and then the world champions started going about the try-scoring business with a real vengeance, the wing Stefan Terblanche going over for his fifth try in only his third international.

Montgomery's conversion took them into double figures and worse followed when the flanker Andre Venter capitalised on a break by the wing Pieter Rossouw for their second try, the Welsh response restricted to another Thomas penalty goal.

Wales were never able to make much progress with the ball in hand, repeatedly forced to shuffle sideways, while the Springbok centre Andre Snyman in particular showed them how it should be done, slicing through to set up Terblanche for his second and South Africa's third try

The Welsh line was constantly under threat and the pressure inevitably took its toll, with Snyman again proving the provider, the subsequent angle and pace of Rossouw doing the rest for their next try and an ominous half-time 25-point advantage.

After Rossouw sprinted over for another try after just 84 seconds of the second half, the floodgates were well and truly open, Joost van der Westhuizen and then Rossouw ripping Wales apart, Rossouw completing his try hat-trick in just eight whirlwind minutes, before Venter finished off a flowing attack as the half-century of South African points was reached in a rush.

Thomas gave Wales a rare moment of joy as he darted through for a close range try. The fly-half converted himself before the home side resumed normal business with Montgomery and lock Krynauw Otto both going over.

The rest was all to easy for the Springboks, McNeil Hendricks, Franco Smith, Johan Erasmus, Bobby Skinstad and Montgomery completing the humiliating rout and leaving Wales wondering just where they go from here.

Jones defended the decision to tour South Africa with an under-strength squad. "We came here to play because we want to learn and play at the same tempo as the Springboks," he said.

"Unfortunately that approach was to our detriment at the end of the day, but we came here and at least we had a go. We had a lot of new caps and we knew it would be tough - but perhaps not this tough."

South Africa: P Montgomery; S Terblanche (M Hendricks, 49), A Snyman, P Muller (H Honiball, 44), P Rossouw; F Smith, J van der Westhuizen (V Swanepoel, 44); R Kempson, J Dalton (N Drotsky, 66), A Garvey (O le Roux, 66), K Otto, M Andrews (B Skinstade, 42), J Erasmus, G Teichmann, capt (A Aitken, 61), A Venter.

Wales: B Hayward (D Williams, 48); D James, M Taylor, J Funnell (S Jones, 50), G Evans; A Thomas, P John (D Llewellyn, 79); M Griffiths, B Williams (G Jenkins, 66), J Davies (D Morris, 60), I Gough, A Moore, N Thomas, C Charvis (G Lewis, 71), K Jones, capt (C Wyatt, 40).

Referee: P O'Brien (New Zealand).