So where do Wales go from here? To Carisbrook on 19 June for the first of two Tests against the men in black – The House of Pain, as the old Dunedin ground is known. It was a discomforting thought in the already deflated aftermath of Saturday's spurned opportunity to claim the scalp of a weakened Springbok side.
Wales have never won in New Zealand and unless Graham Henry decides to go farther than the South Africans and rest a complete team of big-hitters, Warren Gatland's men could be in for a couple of painful experiences.
True, Wales had a cracking start. They were 16-3 up when James Hook plundered the opening try after 21 minutes. They also produced a cracking finish, late tries from Tom Prydie and Alun-Wyn Jones pulling them back to within three points, from a deficit of 31-19.
Crucially, though, in the second and third quarters, Wales allowed the game to run away from them. Their lineout disintegrated; and South Africa – minus a host of big names – did not so much stamp their authority as prey on Welsh mistakes. Wing Odwa Ndungane squeezed a score in the left corner before half-time. Next, Dewald Potgieter claimed his first score for his country. And, just before the hour mark, debutant Juan De Jongh bagged a third Springbok try.
"We were outstanding for the first 25 minutes and then we just handed them the game on a plate," Gatland, Wales' head coach, lamented. "We were clinical and accurate, and then we caught some sort of disease." Which is not the best state of health for a trip to The House of Pain.
Wales: Tries Hook, Prydie AW Jones; Conversions S Jones 2, Penalties S Jones 3; Drop goal Hook. South Africa: Tries Ndungane, Potgieter, De Jongh; Conversions Pienaar 2; Penalties Pienaar 4, Steyn 1.
Wales: L Byrne); L Halfpenny, J Hook, J Roberts, T Prydie; S Jones, M Phillips; P James, M Rees, A R Jones, B Davies, D Jones, J Thomas, S Warburton, R Jones (captain). Replacements: AW Jones for D Jones, 58; J Yapp for AR Jones, 58; R McCusker for Warburton, 78.
South Africa: F Steyn; G Aplon, J Fourie, J De Jongh, O Ndungane, R Pienaar, R Januarie; CJ van der Linde, J Smit (captain), BJ Botha, D Rossouw, V Matfield, F Louw, D Potgieter, J van Niekerk. Replacements: B Basson for Ndungane, 33; R Kankowski for Potgieter, 56; J du Plessis or Botha, 58; C Ralepelle for van der Linde, 74; Z Kirchner for Steyn, 75; A Hargreaves for Rossouw, 75.
Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content