World Champions South Africa suffered a major fright before clinging onto a 26-21 victory against the British and Irish Lions to claim first blood in the opening Test at Kings Park in Durban.
The tourists looked down and out at halftime with the home side leading 19-7 but the Lions fought back bravely in the second spell and just fell agonisingly short of pulling off one of the great comebacks of all time.
The Springboks showed no signs of ring rustiness and tore into the Lions from the outset. Captain John Smit barged his way over in the fourth minute for the first try of the match and with Ruan Pienaar banging over three penalties and full back Frans Steyn adding another, the Boks were firmly in control at the break.
Leicester flanker Tom Croft gave the Lions some hope when he was on the shoulder of Brian O'Driscoll to collect the Irish centre's pass to dive over in Steyn's tackler but other than that, the tourists struggled to get in to the game as their scrum and lineout failed to function.
When flanker Heinrich Brussow powered over early on in the scone half it looked like it was going to be one way traffic but a second try from Croft with 13 minutes remaining suddenly turned the tide.
Scrum-half Mike Phillips dived over with five minutes remaining, Stephen Jones converting both to set up a grandstand finish.
The Boks were out on their feet as the Lions ripped into them but somehow the home side kept the rampant Lions at bay.
Even in defeat, there were several positives to come out of the match for Ian McGeechan and his fellow selectors. Welsh centre Jamie Roberts was once again outstanding and his partnership with O'Driscoll has become a crucial cutting edge for the Lions.
Hooker Matthew Rees and fellow countryman Adam Jones both impressed when coming on as replacements for Lee Mears and Phil Vickery respectively. The scrum improved in the second spell so the Lions selectors have plenty to ponder before the second Test next Saturday.
South Africa (19) 26
Tries: Smit, Brussow Cons: Pienaar 2 Pens: Pienaar 3, Steyn
Lions (7) 21
Tries: Croft 2, Phillips Cons: Jones 3
South Africa: Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, John Smith (capt) Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussow, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Deon Carstens (for Smit, 65, Smit for ), Gurthro Steenkamp (for Mtawarira, 65) , Andries Bekker (for Botha, 57), Danie Rossouw (for Brussow, 52), Ricky Januarie (for Du Preez, 68), Morne Steyn (for Pienaar, blood 65, Pienaar for Jacobs, 74), Jaque Fourie (for De Villiers, 57)
Lions: Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts, Ugo Monye, Stephen Jones, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears, Phil Vickery, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Matthew Rees (for Mears, 50), Adam Jones (for Vickery, 45), Donncha O'Callaghan (for Wyn Jones, 68, Martyn Williams (for Wallace, 66), Harry Ellis, Ronan O'Gara, Rob Kearney (for Byrne, 38).
It was a double celebration for Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb when he called at the home of Welsh rugby to help commemorate the first anniversary of Principality Stadium and his return to fitness this weekend ahead of the RBS 6 Nations.
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Wales head coach Rob Howley explains his decision to change the captaincy of the national side with Ospreys second row Alun Wyn Jones taking over from Sam Warburton for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations. Howley is hoping his decision will allow Warburton to rediscover his 'mojo'.
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Head coach Rowland Phillips and key front rower Carys Phillips look ahead to games against Spain and Ireland as Wales Women ramp up their preparations for the forthcoming Six Nations. The two warm-up games are a 'massive opportunity to refine the squad' according to the Welsh camp.
Martyn Phillips has discussed details of the newly published 'Strategy for Welsh Rugby' which puts in black and white terms the plans and direction of the governing body of the national sport in Wales for the next decade.
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips has urged Welsh rugby fans to follow in the footsteps of their soccer counterparts at last summer's Euro Championship by backing their team to the hilt in the upcoming RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Chief executive Martyn Phillips has highlighted the plans for Wales to become a breeding ground for national and elite club rugby coaches, which are contained in the WRU's 10-year 'Strategy for Welsh Rugby'.
Andrew Coombs is enjoying his new role as Nelson forwards coach. The former Dragons and Wales lock has big ambitions to become a professional coach but feels it's important to learn the ropes in grassroots rugby and where better than his home club Nelson, with friends and family close to hand.
Students at Brynllywarch Hall School, near Newtown, have transformed their own lives, and are now having a positive impact on others through rugby. The sport has had a life-changing effect on the well-being of the students who are now delivering rugby sessions to local primary schools and playing for a new mixed ability side
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Wales and Ospreys back row James King, who came through the North Wales age grade system, nominated North Wales Regional Community Rugby Manager Marc Roberts, in the WRU's 'Diolch' initiative where squad players thanked those who played a part in their rise to the top.
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When the Wales squad were asked to nominate individuals who played a big part in their early playing days, Wales and Dragons full back and wing Hallam Amos thought of his former Monmouth School rugby coach John Bevan.