Boks end year on a disappointing note with defeat against Wales
The pre match battle cry for this test outside the November test window demanded one last surge.
The Boks dug deep and summoned levels of courage and commitment rarely seen but they failed to sustain the stirring comeback that brought them excruciatingly close to an improbable win.
The defeat means two defeats from four tests in Europe and may well seal the fate of coach Allister Coetzee.
The irony is he would have been mightily proud of the effort his team delivered once they went 21-3 down.
Tries by Warrick Gelant, Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel helped the Boks into the lead after 55 minutes but ultimately their sins from earlier in the match caught up with them.
It was a remarkable comeback when it looked like they might drop their bundle. The toil of the forwards was key. They got initial traction in the scrum which was perhaps to be expected and while they did not profit from that advantage initially, the slow poison gradually took affect elsewhere.
For large swathes in the middle of this match the Bok forwards dominated but the visitors weren’t as ruthless in applying the finishing touches as they were a week ago.
Malcolm Marx was a colossus, Pieter-Steph du Toit took a while to fire up his diesel engine, but when he did he kept purring. Dan du Preez’s performance at No8 belied his tender years, Lood de Jager stood tall in the second row while Steven Kitshoff’s star continues to soar.
Off the bench Bongi Mbonambi was a bundle of energy when he was unleashed and Oupa Mohoje wasn’t far behind as halftime replacement for Eben Etzebeth.
To play to such heights required rapid transformation. They were barely recognisable. In the opening quarter the Bok were ponderous, lethargic and looked bereft of plan and idea
In some basic elements of the game they continue to be feeble. They treat the aerial rugby ball as if it as bathed in anthrax.
Captain Etzebeth left the field dazed at halftime and it was perhaps symptomatic of the Springbok performance up to that point. They were stunned in the opening eight minutes as Wales breathed fire. The brimstone also rained down as the hosts lay in the boot early here.
They profited richly from applying the boot, not just as tactical means to squeeze a often exposed South African sore, but also as attacking probe by which to poke holes in the Bok defence.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar’s inch perfect cross kick to wing Scott Williams was an act of training grounding exhibitionism. Williams ran onto the floating ball at speed to set up a one-on-one encounter with Andries Coetzee. The outcome didn’t really matter because he had support in Scott Williams who duly rounded off to thunderous applause.
They were soon in raptures again as debutant Hadleigh Parkes rounded after the Bok defences were breached by a Biggar chip.
Although they got onto the scoreboard through a Pollard penalty Wales scored their third try, also via a kick but this time courtesy of Andries Coetzee whose attempted clearance was charged down.
The Boks had dug themselves a hole and just when it looked they found a way out they fell back in.
It may prove costly for Coetzee.
The pre match rituals here are quite splendid and routinely features a rousing rendition of Tom Jones’s classic “Delilah”. Bok fans may well vent at Coetzee “Forgive me Delilah I just can’t take any more.”