Wales 16-52 South Africa: Welsh rookies taught tough lesson in World Cup warm up by defending champions as Jesse Kriel and Canan Moodie both bag a brace in eight-try romp

This was a mismatch in terms of international experience so it was no surprise Wales’ final World Cup warm-up ended in a hammering at the hands of defending global champions South Africa.

Head coach Warren Gatland gave his fringe players a final chance to make his 33-man squad for the tournament in France and must have known his rookies would be up against it.

So it proved. It ended in a record Welsh home loss to the Springboks.

Gatland will name his chosen World Cup party on Monday and will do so on the back of an eight-try hammering. While the Wales side which will start the World Cup against Fiji on September 10 will look totally different to this, one wonders whether the scale of this loss may yet impact confidence.

Wales were up against it in all areas.

Jessie Kriel and Canan Moodie both scored two tries for South Africa on Saturday

South Africa were awarded penalty try after Rio Dyer deliberately knocked the ball out of play

South Africa were awarded penalty try after Rio Dyer deliberately knocked the ball out of play

After the late withdrawals of Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Biggar, they had just 38 caps in their starting back division. South Africa, by contrast, were close to fully loaded.

The Springboks – World Cup winners in 2019 – had a mammoth 860 caps in their matchday 23.

It amounted to a gaping chasm in terms of Test knowhow and the result was predictable.

South Africa fielded a near first-choice XV. Only Faf de Klerk, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian Willemse and Eben Etzebeth were missing from their likely side to start the World Cup.

It was a good afternoon for Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber who saw his iconic captain Siya Kolisi return to action and his team deliver a trademark, ruthless performance.

There was not much to cheer about for those of a Welsh persuasion, but this will surely have told Gatland plenty about whether or not his young guns can cut the mustard.

Cheered even by Wales supporters when his name was read out before kick-off, Kolisi made an instant impact in what was his first game back since a miraculous recovery from knee surgery.

In just the fourth minute, the iconic Springbok was tackled by both Tom Rogers and Welsh debutant Cai Evans but freed his hands in contact to give hooker Malcolm Marx an easy finish in the corner.

Wales’ World Cup hopefuls knew this was their last chance to press a claim for a plane ticket for France and on his first appearance of the summer, Johnny Williams showed up well.

The centre rode one Marx tackle with a strong carry. Rio Dyer’s defence has clearly improved.

Wales were doing OK physically, but their scrum was under huge pressure.

Manie Libbok missed one kick after South Africa won a set-piece penalty, but he converted the second Springbok try from man of the match Canan Moodie.

Centre Kriel goes over for a try as the visitors surged into a 24-9 half-time lead in Cardiff

Centre Kriel goes over for a try as the visitors surged into a 24-9 half-time lead in Cardiff 

Giant lock RG Snyman broke free in the absence of a Welsh ruck guard, his giant hands making the ball resemble a pea.

Marx was in support and quick ball allowed Willie le Roux to send Moodie over.

Three penalties from Sam Costelow kept Wales in the game.

Gatland’s rookies were certainly up for the battle. South Africa weren’t perfect.

The Springboks are known for their raw power. That was in evidence at Principality Stadium, but so too was an eagerness to offload in attack.

Wales captain Jac Morgan relieved more pressure with a hefty clearance kick.

But his props Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti were in big trouble at the scrum.

After conceding another penalty there, South Africa broke away. Le Roux kicked towards Moodie.

Dyer had impressed to that stage but as he got back to cover, the Dragons wing was judged – after a long check – to have deliberately knocked the ball both away from Moodie and out of play.

He was yellow carded and a penalty try given. It soon got worse.

From the restart, Wales failed to claim a Springbok kick and green shirts tore forward. When the kick went through from Damian de Allende, Mason Grady was back to cover.

But the young centre either chose to try and pass under pressure in the in-goal area or lost control of possession. Either way, he immediately paid the price. Jesse Kriel gobbled up the loose ball to score. Wales were thankful Libbok’s poor kicking – both from the tee and in play – didn’t make things worse than 24-9 at the break. Wales entered South Africa’s 22 just once in the first 40.

Kolisi was withdrawn at the break after playing the first half of his first game back 119 days after suffering an anterior cruciate knee ligament injury. He certainly impressed.

Then came the bomb squad. An entire new South African front row appeared in the 47th minute.

To a young Wales side, it must have been a nightmare sight. Gatland introduced new props Nicky Smith and Henry Thomas to shore up the scrum. Smith was immediately penalised.

Dyer was perhaps harshly yellow carded, but he was making an impression. When he raced down the wing and found Costelow in support, a home try looked certain.

But in a prime attacking position, Kieran Hardy’s pass was intercepted by Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The flanker broke clear and had Kriel in support as South Africa went the length of the field. Kriel had too much pace and power for the covering Grady and Rogers.

It began to get ugly. South Africa turned up the power. Wales had no answer.

Du Toit crossed from close range. Moodie grabbed his second after picking off Williams’ pass.

Three penalties from fly-half Sam Costelow (above) kept Wales in the game on Saturday

Three penalties from fly-half Sam Costelow (above) kept Wales in the game on Saturday

Costelow limped off, forcing Evans to return from the bench and slot in at No 10.

Wales’ players had walked from the Parkgate Hotel on Cardiff’s Westgate Street rather than travelling by bus as usual. Some may have wished they had never made the journey.

Replacement Willemse waltzed over after Dyer jumped out of the defensive line and Wales would have been thankful the South African was yellow carded late on. So too was another substitute in Wales’ Teddy Williams on his first cap. Sam Parry grabbed a late consolation.

But the damage had long since been done and Libbok ended a one-sided game by bizarrely opting for goal and missing from range.