Growing pains, but five-try Springboks see off Wales at Twickenham

Centre Jesse Kriel dives over for the Springboks’ first try against Wales at Twickenham in London on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Centre Jesse Kriel dives over for the Springboks’ first try against Wales at Twickenham in London on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Published Jun 22, 2024


Unlike when he first took over as Springbok head coach in 2018, the second coming of Rassie Erasmus got off to a winning start against Wales in London on Saturday afternoon.

But it was not the cleanest of matches by the reigning world champions as they left it late to put an under-strength Welsh side to bed, winning 41-13 after only getting the upper hand in the final 20 minutes of the Twickenham duel.

The Springbok forwards dominated proceedings as expected as the five-try victory, coupled with some excellent defence, secured a first win of the year for the South Africans, with 12 more Tests – including some blockbuster duels with Ireland and New Zealand – awaiting Erasmus and his side this season.

There were plenty of growing pains in the match, but it was expected. And how the South Africans fought through and overcame it shows that things can only get better from here on in.

And it was a Springbok side without plenty of first-choice players who will come into contention in two weeks when the first of two Tests against the Irish takes place in Pretoria.

The stop-start nature of the game was expected yesterday, but after the Boks went up 13-3 early on with some enterprising play and solid kicking off the tee, there was that expectancy that the game would turn into an early rout.

The final score indicates that it was indeed a runaway victory for the four-time Webb Ellis Cup winners, but Wales put up a solid display, especially in the middle stanzas of both halves.

Early on, the Springbok scrum machine laid the marker as the front row of Ox Nche, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch dominated the inexperienced one of the Welsh as penalties came the Boks’ way.

The early possession led to a fourth-minute try after some good, direct play from the South Africans, before some good interplay between try-scorer Jesse Kriel and wing Makazole Mapimpi saw the outside centre go over within five minutes of the kickoff.

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The try came after debutant flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse missed his first shot – a penalty attempt – at goal, but at the follow-up kick to convert the try, he made no fault.

Hendrikse contributed seven points through his boot, and made good runs and strong tackles in his first game.

Kriel returned the favour early in the second half when he did the hard work for Mapimpi to score a try of his own to extend his team’s lead after going into halftime 14-13.

Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe also had a great debut, and was his hard-working self with how he looked for opportunities on the attack, while his defending saved a certain try when the Welsh broke through.

That breakthrough try he scored, coming off his wing, sealed the game for the South Africans, and he deservedly received the Player of the Match award.

Utility back Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu also had a pressure-cooker debut, with his 50-odd-metre penalty kick stretching the lead to two converted tries at 27-13 as the Boks looked to pull away.

There were some more stand-out performances by other rookies like No 8 Evan Roos and fullback Aphelele Fassi, although the Sharks No 15 received a controversial yellow card after jumping for a high ball and catching it – after which his boot made contact with a Welsh defender when he came back to ground.

But, the Sharks star was full value for his grit under the aerial bombs from the opposition, and he will be happy with his return to international rugby.

Although the Boks dominated Wales in the scrums, some penalty calls went against them from referee Chris Busby on which they most likely would seek clarity.

Overall, it was a satisfying performance by the Pieter-Steph du Toit-led Boks, although they would know that plenty of work lies ahead looking at the Irish test series.

The victory will definitely show them where things went wrong and the areas to sharpen up, but Erasmus and his side passed the first test with flying colours on Saturday.


Springboks 41 – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Penalty Try, Makazole Mapimpi, Bongi Mbonambi, Edwill van der Merwe. Conversions: Jordan Hendrikse (2), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2). Penalties: Hendrikse (1), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (1).

Wales 13 – Tries: Dewi Lake. Conversion: Sam Costelow (1). Penalties: Costelow (2).

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