Springboks lose 27-13 to Wales, ending woeful 2016 on a low

By Associated Press 27 November 2016, 12:00AM

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — The Springboks' miserable rugby year had a fitting end on Saturday, with a severely depleted team losing to Wales 27-13 to complete a clean sweep of test defeats on their European tour.

Leigh Halfpenny's five penalties and second-half tries by forwards Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric sealed a third straight win for the Welsh, having beaten Argentina and Japan over the last two weekends to rectify a series that started so poorly with a thrashing by Australia.

South Africa's only try was scored late by flanker Uzair Cassiem in a rare attack by the visitors at Principality Stadium.

Successive losses to England, Italy, and now Wales left South Africa with a record of eight losses in its last nine test matches. A review soon to be undertaken by SA Rugby could lead to coach Allister Coetzee losing his job after just a year in charge.

"It's embarrassing for us," said Springboks captain Adriaan Strauss, who was playing in his final international game. "We've got passionate supporters and we've let them down."

It wasn't unexpected to see such an error-strewn performance from a Springboks team thrown together by Coetzee following the humiliation of losing to Italy for the first time last weekend.

Seven changes were made to the starting lineup, with high-profile backs Bryan Habana, Willie le Roux and Pat Lambie losing their places. South Africa fielded its most inexperienced backline in 22 years, owning just 40 caps, and it showed: Wales' try-line wasn't close to being breached until Cassiem's try in the 70th minute.

With Halfpenny's kicking keeping the scoreboard ticking over, the Welsh were in control at 12-6 at halftime and pulled clear by scoring 10 points early in the second half when South Africa made one sloppy error after another.

There was a penalty almost immediately from kickoff when Wales was deep in its own half. Then came scrumhalf Francois de Klerk's yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, which was punished by another Halfpenny penalty. Then lock Lood de Jager spilled the ball carelessly, the Welsh kicked for an attacking lineout, and a catch-and-drive ended with Owens peeling off to barrel over for a try.

Despite rarely getting into Wales' 22, South Africa somehow was still in the game with 10 minutes left after Cassiem barged over following an attacking maul.

However, Tipuric ensured there would be no improbable comeback, bursting through the defensive line before sidestepping fullback Johan Goosen and diving over. Halfpenny converted to finish with 17 points.

SA Rugby announced immediately after the final whistle that there would be an "overhaul of SA Rugby administration" to go with the already-announced review process after what president Mark Alexander said had been a "profoundly disappointing" season for the Springboks.

"We are acutely aware that we have failed to live up to the Springboks' proud heritage," Alexander said.

He said South Africa will "critically review our selection policy relating to overseas-based players," potentially providing a deeper playing pool for the national team.

"We've seen an unusually high number of injuries to key players this year, and we've lost many experienced test players to overseas clubs, both of which have had major repercussions for the Springboks," he said. "We have to find ways to manage these challenges."

By Associated Press 27 November 2016, 12:00AM

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