Joy at last as Wales beat SA

Date published: November 30 2014

Wales clinched the sweetest of victories with a 12-6 triumph over South Africa, their first Southern Hemisphere scalp since 2008.

Wales clinched the sweetest of victories with a 12-6 triumph over South Africa, their first Southern Hemisphere scalp since 2008.

Neither side were able to build any momentum in a game punctuated by numerous knock-ons and schoolboy errors.

In a tryless contest Wales’ will to win shone through in the dying stages, as the Springboks fluffed their final chances.

Heyneke Meyer will want to forget this trip to Cardiff in a hurry, with a serious knee injury for Jean de Villiers giving South Africa real cause for concern.

Wales hadn’t picked up a win over the Springboks since 1999, while their ongoing troubles against the Boks, Wallabies and All Blacks were starting to gather mythical status.

How crucial the timing of this win of all wins was with the Rugby World Cup looming on the horizon.

Wales may have failed to land a blow on their Pool A rivals Australia, but defeating South Africa will feel just as sweet. Crucially, England are the next visitors to Cardiff in a clash that is set to be momentous.

It would be wrong to take anything away from the Welsh victory, but the Springboks were admittedly miles off their best.

This was only the second Welsh win over South Africa in 108 years, incredibly, but they were worthy winners in a slugfest characterised by several brutal collisions.

Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked all of the home side’s points, countered by two strikes by Pat Lambie, as the 13-man Welsh lineout made a couple of appearances in the desperate struggle for victory.

Halfpenny’s heroics also lay elsewhere in defence with an inspired try-saving tackle on Eben Etzebeth, which according to the laws of size should have never been successful.

With the boot Halfpenny struck as early as the fourth minute, after an early tackle on Rhys Webb, with Lambie not waiting long to counter.

A bone-crunching hit from Duane Vermeulen on Jamie Roberts had set the tone for the game’s physicality, although it was interspersed with moments of skill such as Sam Warburton delivering a flick pass through his legs.

Even the Welsh 15-man maul couldn’t generate a try as the Boks did enough to stop Halfpenny, of all people, just short of the whitewash but Lambie’s missed penalty kick on the half hour mark left both sides deadlocked at 3-3 by half-time.

Warburton was excellent throughout, the captain making a key play when his turnover at the ruck won a kickable penalty for Halfpenny to fire over.

Typically given the nature of the contest Lambie instantly responded, with the Boks scrum gaining an advantage.

Two penalties in four minutes then put Wales into the decisive lead, first for Coenie Oosthuizen’s side entry at the ruck and then after Wales produced the scrum of the day with a monster drive.

Halfpenny delivered, setting up a tense final quarter that was overshadowed by the concern over De Villiers as he left on a stretcher with a dislocated knee after a lengthy stoppage.

Wales’ cause was helped by a yellow card for Cornal Hendricks after he was adjudged to take out Halfpenny in the air, with some superb defence and the Boks failure to execute sending Cardiff into delirium and easing the pressure on Warren Gatland. It’s a day that will live long in the memory for Welsh fans.

The scorers:

For Wales:
Pens: Halfpenny 4

For South Africa:
Pens: Lambie 2
Yellow Card: Hendricks

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 James King, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Scott Williams.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handr