Boks win opening nail-biter

Sunday, September 11, 2011
Kemantha Govender

Durban - The Springboks fought hard to beat Wales 17-16 in their opening World Cup group D game on Sunday.

The defending champions got off to a cracker start in Wellington, with fullback Francois Steyn scoring the Boks' first try. 

James Hook got Wales their first three points by the 10th minute. During this time, South Africa was put under pressure with the Welshmen dominating possession. 

Schalk Burger and Heinrich Brussow made some impressive tackles to keep the Welsh at bay.

The Boks led 10-6 by halftime but the Welsh got back on track after 10 minutes into the second half. 

Hook slotted another penalty and a try followed courtesy of Toby Faletau. The Welsh established a sizable 16-10 lead after Hook converted.

The Welsh looked like they were on the verge of causing a massive upset but the Boks showed why they are world champions with some bursts of great defending. 

Bok replacement Francois Hougaard came to South Africa's rescue by scoring a late try.
Morne Steyn's contributed to the Bok victory with two conversions and a penalty.

The Boks were relieved when Hook missed a late penalty and when flyhalf Rhys Priestland also missed a drop goal attempt. Had both these opportunities been successful, the Boks would have been in trouble. 

Said victorious captain John Smit: "We're pretty happy to get off the board that way... Wales played some good rugby and kept us in our half... but we took the chance when we got it. Close game, nice to get through it."

"It's going to be a most valuable lesson for us getting out of a pretty sticky situation... There's a bit of work to do but we are pretty delighted with the way this evening went," added Smit.

Welsh captain Sam Warburton, also named man of the match, said: "We were quietly confident all week but just came up short. We played really well but we didn't quite get that victory."

Wales coach Warren Gatland commended his charges for their effort. 

"I'm proud of the effort the players put in but we didn't win the game...We put ourselves in with a chance to win but I think we weren't quite good enough.

"The players will be devastated but we had a chance - a drop goal in front of the posts, Hooky had a penalty."

"It's all about competing at the highest level and that's just the little half a percent we've got to learn from," added Gatland.

The Boks' next game is against Fiji on September 17. - BuaNews

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