IT could have been worse. A determined display by Wales wasn’t enough to prevent a 41-13 hammering by South Africa at Twickenham as the world champions’ power eventually told.

Warren Gatland’s men headed to the London with a patched-up side but did a fair job of frustrating a powerful Springboks line-up.

It was just 14-13 to South Africa at the break despite yellow cards in quick succession for the Dragons duo of Rio Dyer and Aaron Wainwright.

The Boks were in command throughout the second half yet, looking rusty and not as cutthroat and brutal as usual, it was only in the closing stages that they really stretched clear.

The world champions will know that much, much better will be needed in their summer Tests against Ireland while kick-heavy Wales will need to show more in attack when they take on Australia.

They are still lacking in ball carriers to go along with the ever-willing Wainwright while they will be glad that the Wallabies don’t carry the same set-piece threat as the Springboks.

The scoreline may have been okay at Twickenham but questions remain about the direction of a side that finished bottom of the Six Nations.

Pressure is building on Gatland, from the outside if not from the Welsh Rugby Union, and he needs a big couple of weeks Down Under.

After seven Test defeats on the spin, the head coach needs to end the streak.

CHALLENGE: Liam Williams climbs high for Wales against South AfricaCHALLENGE: Liam Williams climbs high for Wales against South Africa (Image: PA)

Wales list of absentees meant they were huge underdogs and most were predicting a hammering to rival the 52-16 demolition at Principality Stadium before the World Cup.

Those fears weren’t helped by a nightmare start.

Jordan Hendrikse missed a shot at goal to open the scoring but the fly-half was soon adding the extras to a try by Jesse Kriel after the Boks burst down the left, exploiting poor defence, and the centre played a ‘one-two’ with wing Makazole Mapimpi.

Wales fly-half Sam Costelow got Wales on the scoreboard but they were soon under serious pressure after a line break by number eight Evan Roos.

He was dragged down a yard short but Dragons winger Dyer was then yellow-carded for preventing lock Franco Mostert going over from an offside position.

OFF: Dragons wing Rio Dyer was sin-binned for Wales against South AfricaOFF: Dragons wing Rio Dyer was sin-binned for Wales against South Africa (Image: PA)

South Africa opted for a scrum, then a lineout that earned a penalty try for 14-3, with number eight Wainwright joining his Rodney Parade teammate in the sin bin.

It was already looking ugly with just 15 minutes gone, and a big chance for the 13 men to cut the gap was blown when Scarlets fly-half Costelow repeated his New Year’s Day derby shocker in Newport from the tee.

Another opportunity went begging soon after the return of Dyer with Liam Williams picking off a pass and offloading for Mason Grady but scrum-half Ellis Bevan couldn’t gather the centre’s pass for a debut try.

In the 30th minute South Africa were Aphelele Fassi climbed high to claim a kick but caught flanker Taine Plumtree with his left boot.

Wales struck immediately, and fortunately.

Their lineout in the 22 was picked off but the ball fell kindly for captain Dewi Lake to power over down the left.

Costelow converted, swiftly added a penalty and it was 14-13 after 34 minutes – a scoreline that few had predicted.

That’s how it stayed at the break but the Boks stretched away just 63 seconds after the restart through Mapimpi – albeit from a Kriel pass that looked forward – after Wales were once again undone down their right flank.

OFFLOAD: South Africa legend Eben Etzebeth shifts the ball from an Aaron Wainwright tackleOFFLOAD: South Africa legend Eben Etzebeth shifts the ball from an Aaron Wainwright tackle (Image: PA)

Hendrikse made it 21- 13 from out wide and the fear was that the ‘hosts’ would start to go up through the gears.

A dominant scrum allowed South Africa’s fly-half to make it 24-13 in the 50th minute then a high shot by Dragons lock Ben Carter, thankfully seen as just a penalty, allowed the Boks to go to the corner but Roos was held up over the line after a superb intervention by prop Gareth Thomas and Wainwright.

It was Wales’ turn to be held up over the line approaching the hour when Lake had a burst after a lineout then the Boks were fortunate to still have 15 on the field when replacement hooker Bongi Mbonambi caught Thomas with a head-on-head blow.

It remained 24-13 – and underwhelming – going into the final quarter before exciting Stormers prospect Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu slammed over a penalty on debut to make it 27-13.

The killer blow came with 12 minutes left when a daft breakdown offence by hooker Evan Lloyd, fresh on the pitch, allowed the Boks to kick to the corner and Mbonambi to power over.

Try number five came when wing Edwill van der Merwe stepped prop Harri O’Connor and then showed the gas to go under the sticks for a debut try.

A 41-13 beating but, sadly, most would have taken that at 2pm.

Wales: Winnett; L Williams, Watkin, Grady (James 70), Dyer; Costelow (Beetham 69), Bevan (G Davies 57); G Thomas (Mathias 61), Lake (Lloyd 66), Assiratti (O’Connor 39), Screech (Ratti 61), Carter, Plumtree (Martin 73), Botham, Wainwright.

Scorers: try – Lake; conversion – Costelow; penalties – Costelow (2).

South Africa scorers: tries – Kriel, penalty, Mapimpi, Mbonambi, van der Merwe; conversions – Hendrikse (2), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2); penalties – Hendrikse, Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland).