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Dan Biggar claims Wales have gained confidence from performance v South Africa

Wales captain Dan Biggar claims his side have ‘gained a bit of confidence’ from their performance in narrow defeat to South Africa

  • Dan Biggar is taking the positives after Wales were beaten by South Africa 
  • Wales put in an encouraging performance but ended up losing 32-29 
  • South Africa captain Siya Kolisi admitted that Wales ‘got under our skin’

By their opponent’s admission, Wales got under the skin of the Springboks and so nearly landed a fatal blow on the world champions. 

It was a case of so near, but yet so far. Now, the question is can Wayne Pivac’s side raise themselves from the canvas and go one step further than heroic defeat? For all the incredible Welsh resolve shown at Loftus Versfeld, you have to doubt whether it will be possible. 

South Africa will surely not be as bad in the second Test as they were in Pretoria. ‘Everybody is saying how much better the Springboks will be next week, but there is no reason why we can’t get better either,’ said Wales captain Dan Biggar. 

Dan Biggar feels Wales can take confidence from their display in their defeat to South Africa

‘Nothing changes from our point of view from this week to next. If anything, we’ve gained a bit of confidence.’

How Wales rally themselves from the depths of more last-gasp heartbreak will define the rest of their tour of the Rainbow Nation. In a first Test for the ages, Wales rattled the planet’s No 1 side. 

‘I think they (Wales) got under our skin,’ said South Africa captain Siya Kolisi. ‘Things weren’t going our way in the first half. We couldn’t get the maul going and we did a couple of things out of character.’ In their first Test of 2022, South Africa were poor. But that shouldn’t detract from the Welsh performance which was exceptional. Who could have seen this sort of display coming after a Six Nations which ended with just one win and a first home defeat by whipping boys Italy? There were heroes everywhere in red. Lock Will Rowlands has become a Test lock of huge stature.

Leicester’s Premiership winner Tommy Reffell had a fine debut. Fly-half Biggar cajoled his team and never took a backward step. He got in the faces of South Africa’s players and, perhaps, also got on the wrong side of Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli. More of that later. Wales led 18-3 at half time, Louis Rees-Zammit crossing for two breakaway tries and Biggar booting the rest with one superb drop goal. 

Siya Kolisi, the South Africa captain, admitted that Wales got under the skin of his team

Siya Kolisi, the South Africa captain, admitted that Wales got under the skin of his team

But in a final quarter of high drama, Amashukeli sent three Wales players to the sin bin, awarded South Africa a penalty try, and then penalised Biggar for a deliberate knock on with the clock in the red. Up stepped Damian Willemse, who landed the match-winning three points and broke Welsh hearts. The winless run goes on. No Wales side has ever claimed victory on South African soil.

‘We were very disappointed after the Six Nations,’ said Wales flanker Dan Lydiate. ‘We wanted to put some pride back into the jersey, but we wanted to win. We are gutted with the result.’ 

Wales head coach Pivac, his staff, and players will spend the early part of this week reviewing their discipline and the key decisions which saw Amashukeli send Alun Wyn Jones, Rees-Zammit and Rhys Carre to the sin bin late on.

Referee Nika Amashukeli received critcism for some of the decisions that he made

Referee Nika Amashukeli received critcism for some of the decisions that he made

Biggar had also been shown yellow in the first half. After a spiky and controversial Test, Biggar said: ‘I don’t know what the referee expected us to do – come here and lie down and let South Africa have everything their own way? ‘I don’t know what the issue is. It’s a Test match. We wanted to get in amongst it and not take a backward step. That’s part of the game. If you stand off South Africa out here you are going to get steam rolled pretty quickly. You have to show some fight, aggression and competitiveness. 

‘I didn’t see any issue. They were as niggly and competitive as we were, but that was perfect for us – exactly what we wanted. The decisions will be analysed.’ Joel Jutge, World Rugby’s head of match officials, was in Pretoria to look at Amashukeli’s performance and would surely acknowledge a chaotic end to the game both on and off the field could have been handled better. Springbok fans hurled abuse and beer bottles at Wales’ players. There is no place for that in rugby. Privately, Wales will feel aggrieved at some of Amashukeli’s decisions, especially the one to card Rees-Zammit. South Africa were also offside from the restart after Dewi Lake’s try. 

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac says that his team will look to learn from their defeat

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac says that his team will look to learn from their defeat

Pivac said: ‘It was a big game for him (Amashukeli), wasn’t it? The referees do their thing and we will do ours. We will go away and have a look so we can take the learnings.’ 

Ultimately, Amashukeli’s decisions matter little now. Wales have to move on. They will be without prop Tomas Francis for Saturday’s second Test after he suffered a sickening head injury in the series opener just months after a similar knock in the Six Nations. Francis should be given the rest of the tour and the summer off to prioritise his welfare. 

Wales did so much right in the first Test, but were outscored four tries to three as Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx and Cheslin Kolbe crossed for South Africa before their penalty try. Pivac’s men must work on their discipline this week, but that is easier said than done when under the pressure of the Springbok ‘bomb squad’. ‘We have got to look at the positive things we did and have got to make sure we have a similar sort of start next week,’ Pivac said. ‘It sets it up for a good second Test.’