South Africa hung on to beat Wales 34-31 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday after a late comeback from the hosts gave them hopes of achieving only their second ever win over the Springboks.
South Africa fielded a side that contained a mix of youth and experience as they tested their depth in this once off fixture that had them flying players in for the game as late as Thursday. Ultimately, the strength in depth showed as they managed to hold off Wales with a side that is very different to that which will start in the Tri Nations.
Wales started off well, but squandered a 16-3 lead as the visitors slowly but surely got themselves back into the game thanks to some good kicking by Ruan Pienaar, and tries by Odwa Ndungane, Dewald Potgieter and Juan De Jongh.
They got to that lead after captain John Smit fancied himself as a flyhalf and couldnt decide whether to put in a chip kick or a long pass. In the end the long pass was picked off by the, as always, highly impressive Welshman James Hook.
“It was a schoolboy error,” Smit said afterwards. “I could hardly go behind the posts and tell the boys to toughen up. I asked Victor to have a word.”
Debutant De Jongh was smashed by Jamie Roberts early in the game, but soldiered on to put in a notable performance for such a youngster. His centre partner Jaque Fourie praised Wales for the way they started the game.
“We knew it would be hard and physical, but we got a shock in the first 20 minutes,” Fourie said. “We did not panic and went back to basics. Wales have some excellent combinations in their team and they will be dangerous in the World Cup.”
With ten minutes left in the game South Africa were 31-19 up but the Welsh came back after relentless pressure and some good hands resulted in a nice try to youngster Tom Prydie. Zane Kirchner then came on for Francois Steyn and his first touch of the ball spilt free for Lee Halfpenny to pounce, leading to the late try for Alun Wyn Jones.
Wales fly off to New Zealand on Wednesday for what should be an even sterner challenge as they face two Tests against the number one ranked team in the world.