South Africa 43 Wales 17: Gatland has 'no excuses' for defeat

The much heralded meeting of the world champions and the Grand Slam winners proved no contest as Wales were swept aside here in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Their demise, in the face of superior southern hemisphere physicality, followed a well-trodden path as the Six Nations' so-called finest were trampled by a new-look South Africa team under an equally new coach. Frankly, Peter de Villiers' side did not have much to beat. Wales were abject and the Grand Slam glory of March seemed as far away as Bloemfontein is from Bridgend.

Wales' coach, the New Zealander Warren Gatland, said: "We don't have any excuses for our performance – we were well beaten by a better side. We were not good enough today. The players and management were disappointed, and quite frankly pretty embarrassed by that performance. We were pretty proud about what we had achieved over the last six months, but came here today and got humiliated.

"Our handling was poor, and probably our discipline, in terms of the number of penalties we gave away. It didn't help us to stay in the game, allowing South Africa to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

"I was pleased with the way we scrummaged. At times, when we kept the ball and kept shape, we looked pretty good and put them under pressure. That is what we are going to do a lot more of next week. We spoke about coming here and competing physically with these guys and we didn't do it today. I'm sure that these players will go away and see that as a big challenge to improve on next week."

Wales never established a forward base off which to play. They passed the ball deep behind the gain line, to players standing still. Their lobbed mispasses simply invited an aggressive rush defence to hammer the recipient. The Welsh also missed tackles.

Excelling in their own tournament offers the Six Nations champions only the bragging rights of big fish in a goldfish bowl. Take them out of the little kingdom in which they rule and they are exposed.

The Springboks' physical power in the tackle, strength in the rucks and mauls and ability to exert pressure gave them an overwhelming advantage. The Welsh looked lightweight by comparison and their handling was atrocious, especially in the first half. They made errors all over the field and were prone to alarming lapses in concentration in defence.

South Africa started off rustily and were hardly fearsome, but as they got into the game they showed glimpses of their capabilities. These could, in time, be considerable.

De Villiers wants his side to expand their game, to start tapping the vast potential which they only scratched during their march to World Cup success last October. There were clear signs here that they can do so. South Africa's strength in depth is to be envied by every country in the world, New Zealand included.

Wales were without a number of key men, especially at scrum-half, and they never looked like making up for it. Gareth Cooper was too slow at the base of the scrum and his tendency to run sideways before unloading was suicidal. In fairness to the Gloucester No 9, his forwards were always second best.

Wales' indiscipline at the breakdown hampered them still further. They were constantly penalised, allowing the Springbok fly-half, Butch James, to kick five penalty goals, four of them in the opening 23 minutes. That gave the Springboks a 12-3 lead and they were good enough to build on it, particularly after half-time.

South Africa needed half an hour to throw off the initial cobwebs but then, sensing the vulnerability of their opponents, they struck. Later on, bringing on a pair of World Cup winners, the lock Victor Matfield and full-back Percy Montgomery, when they were in total charge was a demonstration of their strength.

The Wales captain, the No 8 Ryan Jones, did his best to steady the ship and give his side some self-belief. But not even Jones at his best – and he was never that here – could have made much difference.

The Springboks scored four tries in 42 minutes and Wales were left to reflect on their own inadequacies. To make matters worse, they discovered after the game that a calf strain has ended the hooker Matthew Rees's tour. Rhys Thomas of the Cardiff Blues will join the party today.

South Africa: C Jantjes (Western Province); T Chavhanga (Western Province), A Jacobs (Sharks), J de Villiers (Western Province), B Habana (Blue Bulls); B James (Bath), B Conradie (Western Province); G Steenkamp (Blue Bulls), J Smit (Clermont Auvergne, capt), B Mujati (Western Province), A Bekker (Western Province), B Botha (Blue Bulls), L Watson (Western Province), J Smith (Cheetahs), P Spies (Blue Bulls). Replacements: CJ van der Linde (Cheetahs) for Steenkamp, 24-32 & for Mujati, 45; P Grant (Western Province) for Jacobs, 32-36 & for James, 72; V Matfield (Toulon) for Bekker, 45; R Pienaar (Sharks) for Conradie, 57; B du Plessis (Sharks) for Smit, 57; D Rossouw (Blue Bulls) for Botha, 58-64; P Montgomery (Perpignan) for Jacobs, 61.

Wales: J Roberts (Cardiff Blues); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), S Parker (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester); A Jones (Ospreys), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), I Gough (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), R Jones (capt, Ospreys). Replacements: M Stoddart (Llanelli Scarlets) for Roberts, 54; J Hook (Ospreys) for S Jones, 54; R Hibbard (Ospreys) for Rees, 54; Duncan Jones (Ospreys) for A Jones, 54; G Delve (Gloucester) for Dafydd Jones, 57; W Fury (London Irish) for Cooper, 62; I Evans (Ospreys) for Gough, 67.

Referee: D Pearson (England).

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

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"
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes