Fatigued Boks avert repeat of Melbourne meltdown

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2006, 12:00am

Wales attempted another valiant comeback against South Africa yesterday, but lightning never strikes twice, and a repeat of the drama seen at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne didn't occur.

South Africa won a tight, physical contest 21-17, and will be the team in the cup competition today. They have reached the cup semi-finals at the four previous IRB circuit tournaments, and they made the final in Wellington.

Argentina will be their quarter-final opponents, but they may have to tackle the South Americans without IRB Series leading scorer Fabian Juries, who suffered a head injury at the end of the Wales match.

Juries was the catalyst for the Springboks' victory over Wales, racing the full length of the pitch at the end of the first half, and passing to Tobela Mdaka to score. It was a killer blow for the Welsh.

'We are a little concerned about Juries,' said team manager Denzil van Heerden. 'He suffered a knock to the head. We will test him again tomorrow. His head clashed with a knee. Hopefully he will be fine.

'Wales are a physical side and difficult to beat, and like in Melbourne they came back at us.

'We came straight here from Australia and I think the fatigue is starting to show. We are relieved to win all our pool matches. It's been a long time since we did that.'

At 21-7 down, Wales began a comeback like the one in the plate final at the games last month. Wayne Evans and Gareth Chapman touched down to set Welsh hearts thumping. But it wasn't to be.

'All the boys are gutted,' said talented flyhalf James Hook. 'We thought we had the edge on it. With another 30 seconds on the clock we could have nicked it. It's just unfortunate we couldn't sneak a try at the end. Our goal is the plate now.'

Welsh coach Dai Rees said: 'The luck was with us in Melbourne, but this time it was with them. But we've increased our performance levels. We're competing with the top teams in the world now.'