Siya Kolisi leads the tributes as Ellis Jenkins shines on Wales comeback

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World Cup-winning South Africa captain Siya Kolisi has led the tributes to Ellis Jenkins after the Wales flanker’s memorable Test match return.

Jenkins, despite being out of the international game for three years, continued from where he left off in Wales’ 23-18 defeat against the Springboks.

He was man-of-the-match when Wales beat South Africa in 2018, but suffered a major knee injury during the closing minutes that sidelined him from all rugby for 26 months.

Wales v South Africa – Autumn Internationals – Principality Stadium
South Africa captain Siya Kolisi was full of praise for Wales flanker Ellis Jenkins after his comeback match (David Davies/PA).

Kolisi was in the Springboks side that day, and he showered praise on a player who finished his Wales comeback match as skipper after centre Jonathan Davies went off.

“I remember when he got injured,” Kolisi said. “Those things are tough.

“We are all here playing rugby, trying to make our families proud, our countries proud, and you never want to wish anyone to get injured.

“For him to fight back, return from injury and make it back into internationals just shows what kind of a character he is.

“I just said to him ‘I am so proud of you’. He played well, and it is always hard to play against him.”

Jenkins’ 12th cap came more than 1,000 days after his 11th, yet he performed with a maturity and quality that suggests he could eventually succeed Alun Wyn Jones as long-term Wales captain.

Jones is among several British and Irish Lions currently injured and unavailable to Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, with Jenkins stepping into a back-row minus Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Justin Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau, and he could not have made a stronger case as the 2023 World Cup countdown continues.

Pivac said: “I am very, very pleased for Ellis. It was a big moment for him.

“He didn’t do a lot of training the week before (due to a rib injury) – certainly no contact – and to come out against a physical side, I was really pleased with him.

Wales v South Africa – Autumn Internationals – Principality Stadium
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac was impressed with Ellis Jenkins’ comeback performance (David Davies/PA).

“He showed great timing and great skill over the ball, and he is going to get better and better for that performance.

“He is an important player, and with Alun injured, you need others to lead in the forwards.

“Justin Tipuric and Ken Owens would normally be there, but with those away, Ellis not only played well, but had a leadership role.”

Wales’ first home defeat against South Africa since 2013 will be tough for Pivac to digest after his team led through six Dan Biggar penalties with only seven minutes left.

But Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx powered over for a try, and Elton Jantjies booted a penalty with the game’s final kick to inflict a second successive Autumn Nations Series loss on Wales ahead of hosting Fiji next Sunday.

“We could have won that match – it came down to a couple of moments,” Pivac added.

“We gave away a silly penalty before half-time, and then another to set up their try.

“Outside of that, we’ve a bit of work to do at the scrum, but we matched them across the park and led for periods. We could have won it at the end.

“It was a big step in the right direction, playing the world champions at their own game. I thought it was a big pat on the back for their effort.”

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