South Africa vs. Wales: Score and Lessons Learned from Durban Test
Warren Gatland's Wales side succumbed to a resounding defeat at the hands of the Springbok's on Saturday, losing 38-16.
The hosts ran in five tries in Durban, including two for Bryan Habana and one for debutant Cornall Hendricks. There were also 13 points for Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn in what was a long 80 minutes for the Welsh tourists.
The absence of Wale's two key performers, Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny, was all too evident as Wales struggled to control the breakdown and looked vulnerable to Springbok kicks.
Alex Cuthbert's solo weaving 70-metre effort was a lone highlight for the Welsh in what was something of a masterclass by the South African side.
Here are the lessons Gatland and Wales will take from their difficult evening in Durban.
Habana Still Has It
Habana is devastatingly quick. He may have lost the "quickest man in rugby" tag to the USA's Carlin Isles and slipped from his previous dominance on the international stage since the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, but he is still a lethal finisher.
The 31-year-old winger scored two tries, reminding everyone that he is still a force to be reckoned with. His first was a footrace after a Willie le Roux kick; there was only ever going to be one winner in that one. His second was an instant repost to a Dan Biggar drop goal. The South Africans put Habana in space and there is no stopping him in that situation.
Wales can't afford to give Habana room to run in Nelspruit, otherwise they could be chasing Habana's shadow all game long.
Dan Biggar Likes a Drop Goal
With Stephen Jones retired and James Hook used as a utility man, the time has come for Biggar to fill the Wales No. 10 jersey. The Ospreys fly-half is now 24 and entering the prime years of his career.
Biggar showed against South Africa that he is developing into an international quality fly-half. The Welshman converted two drop goals and scored all nine points in what was a shambolic first half for Gatland's side.
With experience inside and outside of him in Mike Phillips and Jamie Roberts, Biggar should start to grow into his role for Wales. Signs were shown of this on Saturday despite their heavy defeat. Biggar needs to kick on and put this heavy loss behind him ahead of the next Test next week.
Wales Must Start Quicker
Wales were 28-9 down at half-time, giving themselves no chance of competing over 80 minutes. The Welsh need to give themselves a better platform to stand a chance of beating top southern hemisphere sides.
South Africa cut through Gatland's side all too easily at times. Wales must start quicker themselves if they are to deal with the pace of the Springboks in Nelspruit next week.
While Wales did improve in the second half, gaining more possession, they weren't able to use this to reclaim points on the scoreboard. Chasing the game against a side as good as South Africa is always going to leave you vulnerable. Wales must give themselves a chance by staying in the game up to, and beyond, half-time.
South African Pace of Play Too Good
The pace and physicality of the Sprinbok's play was simply too much for the Welsh to deal with. The South African ball-carriers seemed to cross the gain line on every attempt, causing the Welsh to defend narrow channels, leaving spaces for widemen Habana and Hendricks to exploit.
Wales have some powerful runners of their own in Toby Faletau, George North and Roberts, but they were tackled out of the game by the South Africans, who doubled up on tackles effectively.
The Welsh will need to get their key carriers into the game and match the Springbok's for physicality from the first whistle if they are to get any joy in this series.
Wales Vulnerable to Kicks
Wales look decidedly vulnerable to South Africa's kicking game. When kicks from Steyn and Le Roux turned the Welsh defence, they looked uncomfortable in dealing with them.
Habana's first try resulted from a kick through from Le Roux, before another kick through from the full-back resulted in a try for himself. Welsh full-back Liam Williams had a torrid time of it, with Wales missing Halfpenny more than they could have imagined.
With Halfpenny out for the whole series with a shoulder injury, Wales will need to carefully address their weakness against the Springbok kicking game in order to improve. With wingers North and Cuthbert lethal on the counter-attack, this shouldn't be an insurmountable challenge before Nelspruit.
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