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Ridiculous behind-the-back offload gives Springboks win over Wales

What a way to settle a bruising quarter-final!

South Africa 23

Wales 19

FOR 75 MINUTES this was a war of attrition that was shaded at almost every angle by Wales.

What happened? Duane Vermeulen happened.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - South Africa v Wales - Twickenham Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

With the unofficial co-hosts of this World Cup leading by a point going in to the last five minutes South Africa got a good strong wheel on a scrum 15 metres from the line. The Springbok number eight, an injury doubt in the lead-up to this tour, wasn’t going to board a flight home wondering what might have been.

After driving from the back of the scrum, Vermeulen was stood up by Lloyd Williams’ tackle, but managed to flick the ball behind his back to find scrum-half Fourie du Preez orbiting him. The pass stuck and Du Preez made a desperate leap for the line and all the Welsh toil was undone.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - South Africa v Wales - Twickenham Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Warren Gatland’s men, despite all the injuries that have befallen them, were the dominant attacking team in the opening portion of the game, yet they found themselves trailing 9 – 3.

A deserved 18th minute lead was taken when Biggar embarrassed Willie LeRoux, out-jumping the fullback to claim the ball in the middle of the ‘Bok 22. With Le Roux out of the way, Biggar was able to make further ground before being tackled, but even then he found a pass to his half-back partner Gareth Davies. His second crucial try at that end of Twickenham in this tournament.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2015 - Quarter Final - South Africa v Wales - Twickenham Source: PA Wire/PA Images

That lead would be short-lived, however. South Africa immediately responded with Pollard’s fourth penalty and that threatened to become the story of the half.

To the credit of Wales and their captain Sam Warburton, they managed to at least stem the flow of kicks at goal – if not the penalties from referee Wayne Barnes. They took over the lead for just the second time on the stroke of half-time when Biggar executed a textbook drop-goal from 30 metres and ran for the tunnel with his team up 13 – 12.

Britain Rugby WCup South Africa Wales Source: AP/Press Association Images

South Africa were flattering to deceive, and in the second half even their assured goal-kicker began to wobble. Though Pollard did execute a drop-goal to cancel out a Biggar penalty, the 21-year-old missed two relatively straightforward penalties. He’s fortunate that they did not prove costly.

And no sooner than he got the radar back in working order, it was Eben Etzebeth’s turn to make a coach tear his hair out by conceding a penalty on the restart. Meat and drink for the Ospreys 10.

Everything was playing in to Welsh hands, it seemed: even Etzebeth was getting slammed into reverse by the tenacity of Dan Lydiate on his 21st tackle of the day. But with the game in the balance, the brilliant Biggar appeared to take a head knock and was removed by his medical staff.

Perhaps that slight tweak caused a bit of panic in the Welsh back-line when the screw started to turn in the scrum. Alex Cuthbert was tempted in off his wing with Vermeulen seemingly a sitting duck ready to be smashed. But Vermeulen’s sleight of hand punished Cuthbert, punished Wales and sent South Africa scraping through to the semi-final.

Scorers

Try: F Du Preez

Penalties:  H Pollard (5)

Drop-goal: H Pollard

Wales

Try B Davies

Conversions: D Biggar

Penalties: D Biggar (3)

Drop-goal: D Biggar

Wales: Gareth Anscombe; Alex Cuthbert, Tyler Morgan, Jamie Roberts, George North; Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin, Samson Lee; Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones; Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Tomas Francis, Bradley Davies, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Priestland, James Hook.

South Africa: Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damien de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Fourie du Preez (capt); Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Malherbe; Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth; Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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