The Springboks narrowly see off Wales to reach the World Cup final, where they will play England

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: Wales 19-16 South Africa


Played 36

Wales wins 6

South Africa wins 29

Draws 1

Did you know?

  • Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies won his 50th cap while Alun Wyn Jones joined Sergio Parisse in second place in terms of all-time international appearances, both playing 142 Tests.
  • Tendai Mtawarira started his 101st Test for South Africa, the third prop to reach this milestone after Tony Woodcock (New Zealand, 105) and Jason Leonard (England and the British & Irish Lions, 104).
  • Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard were the starting half-backs for the 15th time since the start of 2018. Only Ireland’s Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton (16) have started together more in that period.

In A Nutshell

What a contrast this was to the previous day’s semi-final. Despite the narrowness of the scoreline and the fact the winner wasn’t clear until the final minutes, it came nowhere close to matching the intensity of England’s win over New Zealand and the stadium was eerily quiet with little to generate cheers or simply engage the supporters.

It was something of a let-down for a game of this magnitude – you expect more drama and skill in a World Cup semi-final. Instead the loudest noise came when the whole crowd partook in singing Sweet Caroline at the break.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: Wales v South Africa

Boxing clever: Gareth Davies kicks the ball clear (Getty Images)

The amount of kicking meant neither side could create any fluid attacks or build momentum. Instead the ball was passed through maybe a couple of pairs of hands before the boot got involved.

Wales put in 41 kicks from hand and South Africa 40. That’s a kick a minute! And it was the box-kicks of scrum-halves Faf de Klerk and Gareth Davies that continually peppered the grass in the first half.

Wales did get a bit of traction down the left-hand side on the couple of occasions when they did keep ball in hand. One attack was called back for a forward pass while another led to a penalty shortly before the break.

Wales were not helped by first-half injuries either – Tomas Francis leaving the field with a serious-looking arm injury sustained while tackling Duane Vermeulen and George North appeared to hurt his hamstring when he chased a Biggar cross-kick.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: Wales v South Africa

On target: Handre Pollard kicks a penalty against Wales (Getty Images)

It was 9-9 early in the second half as Biggar slotted his third penalty to match Handre Pollard’s trio. Yet it wasn’t until the 57th minute that the game had its first try.

South Africa attacked from a lineout in Wales’ half and after Pollard had taken play to five metres out, the ball was spread wide to Damian De Allende, who shrugged off both Dan Biggar and Tomos Williams to stretch over the line.

That perked up the crowd – and they didn’t have to wait long for another try. Wales opted for a five-metre lineout from a penalty and pounded away at the South Africa line with pick-and-goes.

Another penalty followed and Alun Wyn Jones opted for a scrum in front of the posts – a big call but it paid off. The ball went from Ross Moriarty to Tomos Williams to Jonathan Davies to Josh Adams and the wing went over in the corner. Leigh Halfpenny nailed the conversion from out wide and it was level again at 16-16.

From here the match could go either way for there was little to separate the teams. Wales came again and Rhys Patchell attempted a drop-goal but it fell short. Then South Africa were awarded a couple of penalties in quick succession and Pollard duly slotted the second one to put the Springboks in front with five minutes to go. And from there they held on to win and will play England in next weekend’s final.

Star Man

In an unglamorous game such as this the award must go to a workhorse and Pieter-Steph du Toit fulfilled that brief for South Africa. He chased everything, hit everything, carried hard and harried Welsh ball-carriers. His 18 tackles was the most of any player on the pitch and his work-rate was immense.

2019 Rugby World Cup Semi-final: Wales v South Africa

Hard graft: Pieter-Steph Du Toit tackles Ross Moriarty (Getty Images)

The Reaction

Wales coach Warren Gatland: “It was tough encounter. We knew it would be an arm wrestle and we stayed in that arm wrestle. We got back into it but in the last four or five minutes unfortunately we were penalised, then conceded, and the game got away from us. I’m not taking anything away from South Africa – they played really well. But I’m proud of the boys and what we’ve achieved.”

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus: “We knew from our analysis that they strangle the life out of opposition. We expected that and we matched that. It probably wasn’t the best spectacle to watch, but the boys stuck to their guns and adapted to that.”

The Teams

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny; George North (Owen Watkin 40), Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (Rhys Patchell 58), Gareth Davies (Tomos Williams 48); Wyn Jones (Rhys Carre 55), Ken Owens (Elliot Dee 73), Tomas Francis (Dillon Lewis 36), Jake Ball (Adam Beard 60), Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Aaron Wainwright (Aaron Shingler 68), Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Try: Adams 65. Con: Halfpenny. Pens: Biggar 3.

South Africa: Willie le Roux (Frans Steyn 69); S’Busiso Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian De Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira (Steven Kitshoff 47), Mbongeni Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx 47), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch 47), Eben Etzebeth (RG Snyman 53), Lood de Jager (Franco Mostert 58), Siya Kolisi (capt, Francois Louw 69), Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Try: De Allende 57. Cons: Pollard. Pens: Pollard 4.

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