Ending a long wait...again
June 2, 2010
Wales wing Gareth Thomas gets introduced to the floor by Springbok Corne Krige © Getty Images
Wales welcome South Africa to the Millennium Stadium on Saturday as they search for only their second win over the Springboks in a rivalry dating back to 1906. With their attempt in mind we take a look back at some of the sides' most significant meetings in our latest Scrum Seven.
Wales 29-19 South Africa, Millennium Stadium, 1999
Wales' sole win over the Springboks also heralded the opening of the jewel in their crown, the Millennium Stadium, prior to the 1999 Rugby World Cup. The visitors were all too aware of the kicking exploits of Neil Jenkins following his series-winning display from the tee for the touring British & Irish Lions in 1997, but again they fell prey to the Welsh marksman. Jenkins slotted 19 points from five penalties and the conversions to tries by wing Gareth Thomas and centre Mark Taylor. With the result Wales ended a 93-year wait for a win over the Boks, but are still waiting for that elusive follow-up triumph years later.
Wales 0-3 South Africa, Cardiff Arms Park, 1960
After torrential rain buffeted the Welsh capital, Scottish referee Jack Taylor offered to abandon this meeting at the National Stadium. The touring Boks, under skipper Avril Malan, were beginning a potential Grand Slam tour and dogged out a tough 3-0 win thanks to fly-half Keith Oxlee's lone penalty. Flooding at the Arms Park, nestled on the banks of the Taff, was common but here the touch and goal lines were lost to the quagmire, while the team's red and green jerseys became indistinguishable.
Wales 0-11 South Africa, St.Helen's, 1906
The first Test between the countries went the way of the touring Springboks and set Wales up for a long wait. The tourists' 11-0 victory at St. Helen's in Swansea was secured by tries from wing Bob Loubser, fullback Steve Joubert and forward Klondyke Raaff and ensured that they were the only team to win a Test on Welsh soil between 1899 and 1912. Nevertheless, the Springboks were not able to enjoy their win as much as they could as they were attempting a Grand Slam tour but fell at the first hurdle with a defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield.
South Africa 96-13 Wales, Pretoria, 1998
Welsh rugby in the 1990s was a time of relatively few highs and several plunging lows. Routine humiliations by France and England arrived every spring as talk of a chasm in the Five Nations appeared. Wales' nadir came on tour to South Africa in 1998 as political rumblings, the kind Welsh administrators specialise in, distracted from an under-strength squad being fed to the lions. The 96-13 scoreline remains their biggest defeat, with the Springboks walking 15 tries past their ragged defence. Pieter Rossouw was tormentor in chief with a hat-trick, although Percy Montgomery notched 26 points thanks to his brace of tries, nine conversions and a penalty. Making their debuts for Wales were future Grand Slam winners Stephen Jones and Ian Gough. The only way is up, baby.
Wales 18-28 South Africa, Wembley Stadium, 1998
This game, at the home of English football, welcomed the divisive figure of Graham Henry to the rollercoaster world of Welsh rugby. The former Auckland Grammar School teacher would preside over a change in fortunes for the men in red, steeling them to the rigours of the modern game. Having been annihilated on tour over the summer, this 28-20 defeat was greeted with joy and talk of corners being turned. Wales raced into a 14-0 lead thanks to Gareth Thomas' excellent try and three penalties from Neil Jenkins, but things were all square at the break after a soft penalty try and a perfectly timed intervention from Joost van der Westhuizen. South African class told in the second half but Wales held firm to level the scores at 20-20 before van der Westhuizen's brilliance created an easy score for Andre Venter. Still, the platform was laid for the 'Great Redeemer'.
Wales 6-6 South Africa, Cardiff Arms Park, 1970
Until their 1998 triumph this stalemate in Cardiff represented Wales' best return against South Africa. It came at the beginning of their magical 1970s era, with Gareth Edwards scoring all of the home side's points while also serving as skipper. Barry John started at fly-half alongside Edwards, with his future successor, Phil Bennett, winning his second cap on the wing. HO de Villiers touched down for the Springboks, while Syd Nomis notched a penalty. Their tour was an unhappy one, with defeats to England and Scotland and an earlier draw with Ireland wrecking hopes of a clean sweep. Any on-field results were completely overshadowed by events off it however, as a succession of anti-apartheid demonstrations followed the Boks from country to country in what was labelled as 'The Demo Tour'.
South Africa 37-21 Wales, Pretoria, 2008
Wales' 2008 Grand Slam was their second in four years and brought with it massive pride and confidence, instilled by the new coaching regime of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards. Awaiting them on tour in South Africa was a World Champion Springbok side under the stewardship of a new coach, Peter de Villiers. With several stars, including Gavin Henson and Mike Phillips, missing, Wales were comfortably beaten by a Boks side that would infuriate as much as thrill in the ensuing Tri-Nations series despite retaining the combative core of their champion side. Their second Test, in Pretoria, was notable for Gatland's bold move to switch fullback Jamie Roberts to inside centre, a position that a year later he would feature in for the Lions. Wales' second try was also a seal on Shane Williams' grandstand season as he bamboozled the cover defence for arguably his greatest score, but it paled next to a brace from Jean de Villiers and scores from hooker Bismarck du Plessis and scrum-half Ricky Januarie.