Rugby Union: Henry's heroes building on granite

Rugby Union: First-ever win over Springboks lifts Welsh World Cup hopes as England rue missed opportunity

THE 21ST CENTURY was celebrated six months early in Cardiff on Saturday. In an event as symbolic and significant as the founding of the Assembly, Wales beat rugby's world champions South Africa with a performance as monumental as the new Millennium Stadium promises to be.

The new era in Welsh rugby had dawned some 10 months ago with the arrival of the near-messianic figure of their coach, the New Zealander Graham Henry. Now High Noon, aka the 1999 World Cup, looms large, and things are looking up.

The record under Henry reads played 10, won 7, lost 3. They are on a run of six consecutive victories. It is some roll. And this victory was no fluke. South Africa were no pushover either. The Springboks had just stuck 175 points on Italy - 101 of them in the second Test a week ago. But Wales trotted out on to the green, green grass of their palatial new home to a deafening roar from those supporters lucky enough to have tickets in the half-completed stadium, and put bodies, reputations and even their physical wellbeing on the line.

It was the match of a lifetime, if not the century. The number of people who will claim in future, "I was there", will far exceed the 27,000 actually in the space-age ground. It was an intimidating, even menacing, atmosphere which greeted South Africa. Their captain, Gary Teichmann, acknowledged afterwards: "The stadium was only a third full but, given the noise they made, I cannot begin to imagine what it will sound like when it is full."

This victory was yet another in a string of firsts since Henry took over last September. It was Wales' first victory in 13 Tests against South Africa, a series which began in 1906, and followed hard on their first series triumph away - a 2-0 success in Argentina. But given the level of support on Saturday this result was probably no surprise. The Wales captain, Rob Howley, was clearly moved when he eventually led out his side into the cauldron of sound, having kept the fans and, more importantly, the Springboks waiting.

"We were letting the crowd noise build up a bit," Howley explained. "The players appreciated the crowd and what our supporters have gone through while we have been playing at Wembley. We just wanted to enjoy the moment of our return as much as it was possible to, given that we were about to face the world champions." When they finally emerged Howley added: "It is a moment that will live with me for ever."

Victory enabled Howley to consign some painful memories to the background. "I seem to have been on the wrong side of historic scorelines lately," Howley explained. He was referring to the 60 points conceded against England and the 51-0 drubbing against France in 1998 followed by the humiliating 96-13 defeat against South Africa in Pretoria last June. "I was sitting in the stand in Pretoria with 40,000 Boks screaming for 100 points," added Howley. "We deserved to beat them when we met them again at Wembley last November and I think today we finally put South Africa to bed."

All week Henry had played down Wales' chances saying it was a Test too far; the players were exhausted, needed a rest. He said afterwards: "We wondered whether we had it in us. Today we showed we did."

The Wales scrummage was awesome. The front row neutralised then destroyed their opposite numbers. Loose-head prop Peter Rogers was magnificent, tight-head Dai Young devious and devastating. Lock Chris Wyatt was fantastic in line-out and loose and in future it is oxen who will be described as being as strong as a Scott Quinnell. His brother Craig missed three quarters of the match after breaking his right thumb, but Scott made up for his absence. His rampaging scattered Springbok defenders like flocks of sparrows. His ball winning and ability to take it up was incomparable.

Behind this superb forward display was a potent back line, star of which was the centre Mark Taylor, scorer of Wales' opening try in first half injury-time. Naturally the boot of Neil Jenkins figured prominently. The Springboks had early warning of what would happen if they transgressed when he thumped over a second-minute penalty. But by half-time South Africa had still not got the message and Jenkins had landed four of his five penalties as well as converting Taylor's try.

Two South Africans received yellow cards, prop Robbie Kempson and flanker Corne Krige, while full-back Percy Montgomery was lucky to stay on following a late body check on Alan Bateman in the second half. The South Africans' preparations were probably not helped by the internal row which broke out last week over selection policy. Sarfu, the country's governing body, were reported to be insisting that the coach, Nick Mallett, select non-whites in the Test team. Mallett said that policy could be enforced at provincial level, but all players regardless of colour had to earn selection in the national side on merit. He was rumoured to have threatened to resign last Wednesday which could have done little for squad morale.

When they finally got their act together in the second half South Africa were a different and a difficult proposition. But Wales' defence has improved immeasurably and heroes were forged in those first 20 minutes after the interval. And having soaked it all up Wales countered with a marvellous try for wing Gareth Thomas. Jenkins converted, then kicked his final penalty. Montgomery's late try was a mere distraction. The Springboks had been flogged. Wales are well set for the millennium.

WALES: S Howarth (Sale); G Thomas (Cardiff), M Taylor (Swansea), A Bateman (Northampton), D James; N Jenkins (both Pontypridd), R Howley (Cardiff, capt); P Rogers (Newport), G Jenkins (Swansea) D Young, C Quinnell (both Cardiff), C Wyatt (Llanelli), C Charvis (Swansea), S Quinnell (Llanelli), B Sinkinson (Neath). Replacements: M Voyle (Llanelli) for C Quinnell, 19; J Humphreys (Cardiff) for G Jenkins, 79; A Lewis (Cardiff) for Rogers, 80.

SOUTH AFRICA: P Montgomery (Western Province); S Terblanche, P Muller (both Natal Sharks), J Mulder (Gauteng Lions), P Rossouw; B van Straaten (both Western Province), W Swanepoel (Gauteng Lions); R Kempson (Western Province), N Drotske (Free State Cheetahs), C Visagie, S Boome (both Western Province), K Otto (Northern Transvaal Blue Bulls), C Krige (Western Province), G Teichmann (Natal Sharks, capt), J Erasmus (Gauteng Lions). Replacements: A Venter (Free State Cheetahs) for Boome, 51; O Le Roux (Natal Sharks) for Visagie, 51; D von Hoesslin (Griquas) for Swanepoel, 57; G du Toit (Griquas), for van Straaten, 57.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

Wales 29 South Africa 19

Tries: Taylor, Thomas Tries: Montgomery, Swanepoel

Conversions: Jenkins 2 Penalties: Van Straaten 2 Penalties: Jenkins 5 Du Toit

Half-time: 19-6 Attendance: 27,168

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform