Players to blame for Boks defeat, says Byrne

LEE BYRNE left no doubt where the buck must stop following Wales’ latest painful failure to capture a coveted Tri- Nations scalp.

For the 38th time in 42 Tests during rugby union’s professional era, Wales finished second best against a southern hemisphere superpower, despite outscoring world champions South Africa on tries for the first time in 25 meetings.

“It must be frustrating for Warren as a coach,” Byrne said. “But you can’t put the blame on the coaches – it’s just us (players) at the end of the day. We’ve got to learn to manage a game when we go up by that many points. In the past we would have gone into that game possibly expecting a defeat, but now we are expecting victories.

“We are setting the bar high. We’ve got to keep on building for the World Cup. We are competing, but we are not getting the win on the board and until we start getting the wins, it’s not good enough.”

Wales looked a million dollars in the first-half as they unearthed a potential new superstar. Teenage wing George North, all 6ft 4in and 16 stone 7lbs of him, terrorised the uncompromising Springboks. He scored a debut Test try after just six minutes, added another midway through the second period and also played a key role in creating James Hook’s clinically-executed touchdown.

“Losing to the world champions, there is no shame in that, but we could have beaten them now and we could have beaten them in June,” Byrne added.

South Africa lock Bakkies Botha believes the Springboks’ character was key in seeing them prevail in “one of the hardest Tests” of his 70-cap career.

He said: “With all the guys injured at home and all the new players coming in, the character we showed was number one. We came in at half time with a setback on the scoreboard, but we stuck to our game plan and it came through for us. It was definitely one of the hardest Test matches I have been involved in.”

WALES: L. Byrne; G. North, T. Shanklin, J. Hook, S. Williams; S. Jones, M. Phillips; P. James, M. Rees (capt), A. Jones; AW. Jones, B. Davies; A. Powell, M. Williams, J. Thomas.

Replacements: H. Bennett for M. Rees (72), J. Yapp for James (71), R. Jones for Powell (60), D. Jones for AW Jones (73), R. Rees for Phillips (69), A. Bishop for Shanklin (39-41 blood bin), C. Czekaj for S Williams (43).

SOUTH AFRICA: G. Aplon; B. Basson, F. Steyn, J. de Villiers, B. Habana; M. Steyn, R. Pienaar; T. Mtawarira, B. de Plessis, J. du Plessis; B. Botha, V. Matfield; D. Stegmann, J. Smith, P. Spies.

Replacements: C. Ralepelle for B. du Plessis (73), C.J. van der Linde for J. du Plessis (75), F. van der Merwe for Botha (60), W. Alberts for Stegmann (46), F. Hougaard for Pienaar (59), Z. Kirchner for Habana (73), P. Lambie for M Steyn (67).

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia).

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