A record 41-3 home defeat to the All Blacks and a lucky 11-10 victory against Fiji was followed by a 17-point reverse against a Springbok side whose performance was described by their coach, Jake White, as "not very good." Much of the damage was self-inflicted, as Ruddock was quick to concede. "I've seen a lot of spirit from my side," the Wales coach said. "But we're making too many errors."
The flying Bryan Habana punished two of those errors with tries on the overlap on the left. He forced another on the opposite wing with a grubber kick that yielded a score for Conrad Jantjes. There was no faulting the Welsh spirit but their cover defence at vital moments was barely existent.
There was the consolation of a late score for Ceri Sweeney but, with five of their Lions still licking wounds, there was only a trickle of the free-flowing play that swept Ruddock's men to the Grand Slam last spring. The biggest wound the Springboks suffered was of their own making, Percy Montgomery marking his return to South Wales with two yellow cards that added up to an early bath.
The former Newport-Gwent Dragon hardly had the best of nights all round, missing four of his seven kicks at the posts. He landed his first penalty in the second minute, but pulled his next effort wide after Habana was shoulder charged into touch by Shane Williams after chasing his own chip for the line on the left. It was the Welsh defence that was pulled apart in the 13th minute, though, as the Springboks worked the ball from wide on the left to wide on the right and back again, advancing from their own half to the Welsh 22, before Habana steamed in unopposed to maintain his try- per-game ratio on his 14th Springbok appearance.
It was a small mercy for Wales that Percival Colin Montgomery was not on par with his left boot. The full-back's hooked conversion kept the lead down to 8-0 before Stephen Jones landed his first pot at the posts on his 50th international game. Montgomery then fleetingly regained his touch and Jones replied with another successful penalty before Wales finally made some attacking ground.
Shane Williams almost made it into the opposition 22 but was bundled off the ball by Jaque Fourie. Within seconds the Springboks were in the opposite corner of the field, Martyn Williams performing a superb one-man cavalry act, holding up C J van der Linde on the line to save a seemingly inevitable try.
Nevertheless, Wales continued to struggle to contain the powerful, pacy South African as half-time approached. A forward pass by Jean de Villiers ruled out a score from a crash-ball take by Fourie, while another wayward Montgomery penalty kept the Springbok lead down to 11-6 at the break. It stretched to 15-6 in the 44th minute, though, Habana flying up the left flank to score on the overlap again.
Montgomery missed once more with the boot and was then missing from the pitch for 10 minutes, sin-binned for following through on a slam-dunk tackle on Shane Williams with a dig on the floor at the flyweight Welsh wing. Chris Horsman followed Montgomery into the pitch-side cooler, courtesy of a punch aimed at Van der Linde. The decisive blow, though, came on the hour, Jantjes pouncing on a Habana grubber kick that Sonny Parker failed to trap in the in-goal area.
Meyer Bosman, impressive on his debut at outside-half for the Springboks, converted from close to the touchline and then Montgomery returned to add a penalty to the ticking South African tally. The Dragons old boy was not back for very long, though - a second yellow for a borderline high tackle on Shane Williams swiftly turning to a red.
The Welsh try was a fine one, Sweeney cutting a superb angle to take a delightful inside pass from Shane Williams. The final flourish, though, came from South Africa, Schalk Burger feeding Danie Rossouw for a close-range score in the final minute.
Wales: L Byrne (Llanelli Scarlets); D James (Llanelli Scarlets), G Thomas (Toulouse, capt), S Parker (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Clermont Auvergne), G Cooper (Newport-Gwent Dragons); D Jones (Ospreys), R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), C Horsman (Worcester), I Gough (Newport-Gwent Dragons), R Sidoli (Cardiff Blues), C Charvis (Newcastle), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), M Owen (Newport-Gwent Dragons). Replacements: A Jones (Ospreys) for Horsman 8-14, for Charvis, 60; C Sweeney (Newport-Gwent Dragons) for G Thomas, 48; M Watkins (Llanelli Scarlets) for Parker, 61; M Davies (Gloucester) for R Thomas, 65; M Phillips (Cardiff Blues) for Cooper, 72.
South Africa: P Montgomery (Natal); C Jantjes (Lions), J Fourie (Lions), J de Villiers (W Province), B Habana (Blue Bulls); M Bosman (Cheetahs), M Claassens (Cheetahs); L Sephaka (Lions), J Smit (Natal, capt), C J van der Linde (Cheetahs), B Botha (Blue Bulls), V Matfield (Blue Bulls), S Burger (W Province), J Smith (Cheetahs), J Cronje (Blue Bulls). Replacements: O du Randt (Cats) for Sephaka, 36; D Rossouw (Bulls) for Botha, 70; D W Barry (Stormers) for de Villiers, 74; B Russell (Sharks) for Jantjes, 74.
Referee: S Dickinson (Australia).Reuse content