The Boks will play England for the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama next Saturday. After winning the big moments of the semi-final, they have every reason to believe that they can clinch the final and claim their first world title in 12 years.
The Boks played with passion as well as power over the course of the clash with Wales. While they weren’t always accurate, their faith in their game plan never wavered.
The stop-start nature of the second semi-final was largely expected. Earlier this week, Wales coach Warren Gatland predicted a kick fest. Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard anticipated a tactical chess match between two sides that preferred to operate without the ball.
The Boks troubled Wales at the kick-offs. They applied the pressure via their kick-chase tactics, albeit not to any telling degree. Wales kept the Boks at bay for lengthy periods and also dealt with the high ball to good effect.
By the end of the first half, Wales had completed 21 kicks from hand and South Africa 19. The Boks went into the break with a narrow 9-6 lead.
South Africa blinked first. An unforced error under the high ball by Faf de Klerk handed Wales possession inside the Boks’ half. Wales won a penalty at the ensuing lineout, and flyhalf Dan Biggar levelled the scores.
The game appeared to be dying a slow death when the Boks sparked it to life in the 56th minute. Rassie Erasmus deployed Malcolm Marx and RG Snyman from the bench and the pair had an immediate impact at the gainline.
Pollard ripped through the Wales defence, and De Klerk found Willie le Roux with a searching pass back to the left-hand side. The finish, however, was down to the power and bloody-mindedness of Damian de Allende – who continues proving to be one of the Boks’ most valuable players.
Wales muscled their way upfield and won a penalty in front of the posts. The decision to take the scrum proved inspired, as Wales exploited the poorly defended blind side to set Josh Adams up for a crucial score.
The crowd stirred from its slumber as Wales continued to gather momentum. Reserve flyhalf Rhys Patchell launched an ambitious drop-goal attempt in the 72nd minute falling well short of the posts.
The Boks were not done yet, though. Francois Louw was mobbed by his teammates after winning an important breakdown penalty on his own 10m line. South Africa booted the ball into touch and set up the maul, which resulted in yet another penalty.
Pollard spent a great deal of time practising his goal-kicking from the touchline at a training session on Friday. When he was given the opportunity to shoot from a similar position in the 75th minute of the semi-final, he showed excellent composure to make the chance count.
De Klerk was the next man to produce a big play. A well-placed probe for the touchline took the Boks deep into Wales territory. South Africa proceeded to force a turnover at the lineout to secure a scrum with only 92 seconds remaining on the stadium clock.
Another penalty brought an end to the contest. Pollard punched the air after his clearance to touch sealed the win and set up a date with England for rugby’s biggest prize.
Springboks – Try: Damian de Allende. Conversion: Handre Pollard. Penalties: Pollard (4).
Wales – Try: Josh Adams. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalties: Dan Biggar (3).
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tom Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin.
Photo: David Ramos – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images
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