Five takeaways from Wales v South Africa

Colin Newboult

South Afria's Handre Pollard celebrates on the final whistle of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Semi Final match at International Stadium Yokohama.

Following a 19-16 win for South Africa over Wales in their Rugby World Cup semi-final, here’s our five takeaways from the Yokohama fixture.

Kick, kick, kick: It was expected to be the case but it did not make the game any less dull. Gareth Davies, Faf de Klerk, Dan Biggar and Handre Pollard took it in turns to put the ball up in the air and try and get their team on the front foot. What ensued was countless errors and a set-piece battle, and the contest suffered as a result. Unsurprisingly, with the more powerful pack, the Springboks enjoyed the better of proceedings and deservedly won the game.

Springboks power tells: Wales have an innate ability to remain in the contest but South Africa are simply bigger blokes and they put Warren Gatland’s men under more pressure. Their execution wasn’t particularly great at times, while their ill-discipline was poor, but they were generally on the front foot. Mistakes also crept in, especially after the break, but when the Boks were error-free, they controlled the game via their set-piece. The scrum was dominant and the maul was once again a weapon, which proved crucial in the triumph.

Regret from a Welsh perspective? Everyone knew what South Africa were going to do but people thought that Wales might mix it up a bit and give the Springboks something else to think about. Ultimately, they didn’t really show much variety and only remained in the contest due to a plethora of Springboks errors. If it came down to an arm-wrestle, the two-time champions were more than likely to come out on top and that’s what happened. They were unfortunate to see talented backs Liam Williams and George North go down injured, but Warren Gatland’s men were too rigid on Sunday.

Handre Pollard keeps his cool: The fly-half is a more talented player than the role he has been given would suggest, but Pollard did what he needed to do. The pivot was excellent off the tee, ending with a 100 per cent record and 14 points to his name. He also showed impressive composure to slot the decisive penalty with just five minutes remaining and the 25-year-old will need that clinical edge if South Africa are to take the title.

England undoubted favourites: The Red Rose won’t be concerned with what they saw from the Springboks, but they will be wary of the Springboks’ excellence up front. On paper, Eddie Jones has a forward eight which is more than capable of matching the South Africans but they will have to do the hard yards early on next weekend. If they can do that and the half-backs kick well out of hand then there is more quality and creativity in the backs than their opponents. England varied their game well against New Zealand and will look to avoid getting bogged down in the final.