|One down, three to go
|South Africa's great trek to a Grand Slam looked a rickety wagon indeed as it got thumped by Wales in the last few minutes and won 38-36 in a slithery match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
For Wales there was great heart in their spirited fightback against opponents who were billed to beat them. South Africa emptied its bench - to little good effect. In the last scrum of the match South Africa put the ball in five metres from their line and were ignominiously destroyed for Dwayne Peel of Wales to dot down for a simple try. Stephen Jones converted and the final whistle went.
The lesson of it all is the necessity for all rugby teams to respect their opponents for the 80 minutes of a rugby Test. There is also the necessity to respect the laws of the game.
The penalty count flew against South Africa - 17-8 in all, plus two free kicks for infringements. Add to that a yellow card for Schalk Burger for repeatedly infringing critically. Respect for the opposition means tackling them - not just charging in with a ricocheting shoulder.
Another reason for South African turnovers was the intensity of the Welsh defence as they, too, used the rush defence which had helped the Springboks in the Tri-Nations.
Enough about this match, lets focus our attention to Ireland this Saturday. There is no doubt Ireland will be licking their lips at the opportunity of toppling the oks at Lansdowne Road. It is quite possibly the toughest game the Boks will have on tour, with the England team looking a little under powered at the moment.
It was confirmed on Sunday that Van der Westhuyzen, the only specialist fly-half in the 34-man touring party, may miss the Irish game because of the hand injury he suffered against the Welsh.
White acknowledged that there was concern over Van der Westhuyzen's hand, but he has so far resisted the temptation to call for a replacement fly-half. "I think it will be a big setback if he cannot play, because he played really well against Wales," White said.
"The more Jaco plays, the better he will become. I know the English players have a high regard for him, because he has played with and against some of their best Test players. They will definitely keep an eye on him." continued pg 19 White does have at his disposal in the team accomplished fly-halves like Gaffie du Toit and Brent Russell, while Percy Montgomery has also played at fly-half.
However, all three appear more suited to fullback, with Du Toit probably the player with the most fly-half experience.
But White hinted that he might not go for the "obvious choice" when deciding on a replacement, which in turn prompted the South African media to start speculating about utility back (wing and centre) as a possible fly-half. White says a final decision about Van der Westhuyzen's availability will be taken some time this week.
Despite the team's rocky start, the Bok coach is not considering major changes to the team for the upcoming clash against Ireland.
The most likely change, other than at fly-half, will be the return of fit-again flanker AJ Venter - at the expense of the athletic Juan Smith. White is known to fall back on his first choice players as soon as they are fit again and Venter played a starring role in the Boks' Tri-Nations victory. His physical approach will also be needed against the robust Irish. There has also been speculation that White might give exciting centre Bryan Habana an opportunity to play Test rugby soon - maybe even be against Ireland.
But fans of Marius Joubert and De Wet Barry need not worry. Habana is earmarked only for a spot on the bench.
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