The winger scores twice in Pretoria but Wales suffer heartbreaking 32-29 defeat

Watch: Electrifying Louis Rees-Zammit try against Springboks

Wales had been widely written off ahead of their three-Test series against South Africa but they got off to a flyer in the opening match in Pretoria.

Within three minutes of kick-off at Loftus Versfeld, Wayne Pivac’s side were leading the world champions 5-0 after a Louis Rees-Zammit try.

The Wales winger is well known for his pace and he got to stretch his legs early on against the Springboks – and he added a second try before half-time too.

Wales ultimately lost 32-29 when Damian Willemse slotted a penalty with the last kick of the match, but they were far more competitive than many expected.

Rees-Zammit’s first opportunity came after Will Rowlands had disrupted a South Africa lineout. Gareth Thomas secured possession and linked with Kieran Hardy and Rowlands as the visitors made ground down the blindside.

Then Wales quickly spread it wide, where Rees-Zammit sprinted into the corner. It was an electrifying start.

Dan Biggar missed the conversion but did extend Wales’ lead in the ninth minute with a long-range drop-goal and added a penalty to make it 11-3 to the visitors halfway through the opening period.

Elton Jantjies slotted one penalty in the opening quarter for South Africa but also missed two other chances from the tee and put another kick dead when looking to find touch in the 22 for a lineout.

In contrast, Wales looked confident and Rees-Zammit scored his second try in the 32nd minute.

Jantjies read a long Welsh lineout throw well but couldn’t secure the ball and the winger was quick to react. He kicked ahead, collected the ball and touched down.

It was an impressive performance from the 21-year-old, who was dropped by Pivac during the Six Nations. He was told to work on his game at Gloucester and he certainly looked in good nick as he strided over the line to score his seventh and eight Test tries. He now averages a try nearly every two games for his country.

Wales led 18-3 at the break, but would have to play the first eight minutes of the second half without Biggar. He was sin-binned for slowing the ball down after tackling Faf de Klerk when the Boks made a line break shortly before half-time.

The Boks needed just six minutes in the second half to score their first try. From a five-metre lineout, they set their maul and after it was stationary for a few minutes it kicked into gear and Bongi Mbonambi grounded the ball.

Damian Willemse, who had moved from full-back to fly-half after Jantjies was replaced by Willie le Roux at the start of the second half, kicked the conversion.

Their second try came in the same manner five minutes later, it was just the scorer that was different with Malcolm Marx touching down.

Two penalties from Biggar extended Wales’ lead to 24-15, but then things started to go wrong for the visitors.

Cheslin Kolbe scored in the corner and Willemse converted from the touchline to reduce the deficit to two points – and they would play the next ten minutes against 14 men as Alun Wyn Jones was yellow-carded.

Then in the 74th minute, Rees-Zammit joined him in the sin-bin for a similar offence to Biggar’s before half-time, not releasing le Roux after tackling him short of the line.

From the penalty, South Africa set a maul from a five-metre lineout and were awarded a penalty try, with Rhys Carre shown yellow for collapsing the maul, which meant Wales were reduced to 12 players for a couple of minutes.

Still, they got a penalty themselves in that time and AWJ was back for the lineout, from which Dewi Lake scored to level the scores at 29-29.

Biggar missed the conversion and then conceded a decisive penalty for a deliberate knock-on as South Africa counter-attacked from a long kick. Willemse made no mistake and it was heartbreak yet again for Wales in South Africa.

Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.