Boks scale the heights
Wales outclassed in Bloemfontein
By Graeme Mair. Last Updated: June 7, 2008 5:52pm
Jacobs offloads under pressure from Parker
South Africa underlined their status as world champions with a 43-17 victory over Wales in the high altitude of Bloemfontein.
The Springboks controlled the game throughout and ran in four tries to comfortably see off the challenge of the Six Nations winners, in the process handing head coach Peter de Villiers the perfect start to his reign as head coach.
Tries from Conrad Jantjes, Jean de Villiers, Pierre Spies and Percy Montgomery was supplemented by 23 points from the boot of Bath fly-half Butch James, who enjoyed a flawless nine-from-nine kicking display.
Wales scored a try in each half through Jamie Roberts and Shane Williams and always looked dangerous in the wide open spaces behind the scrum.
But an indisciplined display from their pack, particularly the back-row who were comprehensively outplayed at the breakdown, meant they never threatened a maiden win on South African soil.
James, who was taking place kicks as Percy Montgomery only made the bench, eased the Springboks into a 6-0 lead with two early penalties.
Wales' game plan of going wide at every opportunity had been hampered by their own infringements as well as five handling errors in the opening 10 minutes. They belatedly settled down and got on the board with a straightforward Stephen Jones penalty, awarded for off-side after quarter-of-an-hour.
But it was only a brief respite as James immediately added two more three pointers in the 14th and 18th minutes to extend his side's advantage to 12-3.
And the Springboks took complete control on the half-hour mark with a well-worked try after lock Andries Bekker stole a lineout.
The ball was quickly moved into midfield where openside Luke Watson offloaded in the tackle and Adrian Jacobs drew the cover defence before passing inside to give Jantjes a stroll under the posts. James added the additional two points for a 19-3 lead.
The 16-point deficit appeared to briefly concentrate minds, Wales finally added some discipline to their game, culminating in a try on 37 minutes.
The visitors had already wasted one chance when Dafydd Jones knocked on with an overlap on the left flank begging to be exploited, but made no mistake shortly afterwards when Williams' jinking run put the defence out of sync.
The left winger cut inside and evaded four would-be tacklers before being dragged down. From the next phase the ball went wide to Sonny Parker, who had enough strength to bounce off two opponents and get his pass away for full-back Roberts to dive over in the corner for his first international try.
Jones landed the touchline conversion to bring his side within nine points, although that work was somewhat spoiled when James responded with his fifth penalty on the stroke of half-time after Wales captain Ryan Jones failed to release the ball while on the ground.
And the Springboks resumed their dominance after the interval and finished the match as a contest with tries from de Villiers and Spies.
Outside centre de Villiers forced his way over on 46 minutes after a turnover at the breakdown and, nine minutes later, Spies took full advantage of some weak tackling to also get across the line.
Despite continuing to be outplayed, Wales stayed true to their attacking philosophy, replacing Jones with James Hook at fly-half for the final quarter, and did manage a second try in the 66th minute from Williams, who stepped inside Bryan Habana during a typically clinical finish for his 42nd Test try.
The lung-burning 1,395-metre altitude began to take its toll in the final stages with the intensity of the tackling noticeably diminished. Montgomery, who replaced Jacobs in the final quarter to earn his 96th cap, used his fresh legs to weave through the Welsh defence for the Springboks' fourth try.
The game ended with CJ van der Linde and Richard Hibbard in the sin-bin following a minor outbreak of scuffling. Both sets of players looked out on their feet by that stage and grateful when the final whistle was blown moments later.
The reverse is Warren Gatland's first as Wales head coach and leaves him with plenty to ponder ahead of the second Test at Loftus Versfeld on June 14.