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And then there were three.

England are in the World Cup final and very soon, Wales and South Africa will duke it out for the right to join them.

The 2007 champions have not been back to the final since then, but against an injury-ravaged Wales they must be licking their lips at the prospect of taking on England.

Warren Gatland’s side, however, have an uncanny knack of making life incredibly difficult for whoever they come up against. And whatever the personnel, the Grand Slam champions won’t feel over-awed by these ‘Boks.

You still have time to get the breakfast on and tune in to eir Sport, RTE or ITV for a 9am kick-off. 

Here’s how the teams line up this for the second semi-final. It hasn’t been previewed with quite the expectant delight that coated the prospect of England-New Zealand. But two  uber-physical sides could serve up an epic.


15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. George North
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Hadleigh Parkes
11. Josh Adams
10. Dan Biggar
9. Gareth Davies 

1. Wyn Jones
2. Ken Owens
3. Tomas Francis
4. Jake Ball 
5. Alun Wyn Jones (capt)
6. Aaron Wainwright 
7. Justin Tipuric
8. Ross Moriarty 


16. Elliot Dee
17. Rhys Carre
18. Dillon Lewis
19. Adam Beard
20. Aaron Shingler
21. Tomos Williams
22. Rhys Patchell
23. Owen Watkin 

South Africa:

15. Willie le Roux
14. Sbu Nkosi
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Lood de Jager
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Duane Vermeulen


16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Vincent Koch
19. RG Snyman
20. Franco Mostert
21. Francois Louw
22. Herschel Jantjies
23. Francois Steyn

Alun Wyn Jones shows that, on top of everything else, he has a serious set of pipes as he belts out the final powerful strains of the Welsh anthem.

South Africa are next up on the song-sheet and then we’ll get a bit of a game going.

Still gives you a double-take every time Felix Jones appears in that Sprinbok coaching box, Rassie and the boys shake hands before sitting down in front of their laptops.


Pollard kicks off and it’s taken in by Moriarty.

Wales kick back and tees up a big carry for Vermuelen before De Klerk kicks high.

Halfpenny takes it.

This is already a very different beast to yesterday’s contest.


De Klerk looks to snipe down the blindside of a left-hand midfield scrum. He chips ahead and does a good job chasing down George North, ankle-tapping the big wing to trip him up on the Welsh 5.

Biggar’s kick clear is poor, but so is South Africa’s attempt to run it abck and AWJ and Wainwright combine to force slow ball and a penalty turnover.


An inventive front-man throw from Wales followed by another up and under.

Halfpenny wins a brilliant high ball over Le Roux on the left side of the 22, but there’s not enough support and the ‘Boks win the ruck and the turnover.


A poor start is absolutely lit up by a delicious flat pass from Jonathan Davies to Josh Adams.

The wing eats up 15-20 yards and Davies is up on his shoulder, but the pass back to the centre is forward.


Oh no. Very close to a disastrous moment for Wales as Gareth Davies and Leigh Halfpenny collide with one another. De Klerk comes charging in while the ball bounces off Halfpenny’s scrum-cap, but he knocks on too. So we’ll go with a green scrum.


PENALTY! Wales 0 South Africa 3 (Pollard ’14)


PENALTY! Wales 3 South Africa 3 (Biggar ’17)


Wales respond really well from the restart after going behind and show some ambition when the advantage is called for a penalty. Parkes’ attempted chip is easily gathered though, so it was left to Biggar to slot over.


PENALTY! Wales 3 South Africa 6 (Pollard ’20)

We’ve settled into a rhythm now, and it’s definitely of the slow, hard slog variety.


Sometimes you can get away with saying a really tight match is a chess match.

This is more like Hungry Hungry Hippos with both sides kicking balls away and happily letting it bounce and bobble away.

Can’t fault the effort of the lads hammering the paddles that power the Hippo’s mouth, mind.


Here we go, South Africa flip the switch and show their incisive attacking side with a good carry and offload from De Allende to De Klerk.

The 9 is well tackled and his options are shut off as he looks to offload.


Strains of Fields of Athenry around Yokohama again.

It makes us very, very sad to consider how Ireland might have fared in this game if they had beaten Japan and had a rattle off the ‘Boks in the quarters.


PENALTY! Wales 3 South Africa 9 (Pollard ’34)

The ‘Boks are making far fewer errors in this contest and slowly muscling their way towards the final.


Hugh Cahill on commentary for RTE delivers a lightning-quick diagnosis of a broken arm after Tomas Francis tackles Vermeulen.

The replay shows a very awkward movement in his arm on impact and he is replaced by Dillon Lewis at tighthead. 


Is that the gap Wales needed to find their rhythm. North makes a big cut in the middle. He’s downed on the 22, but on Wales come. Wyn Jones is given a slow ball to carry and Biggar tries to make up for it with another long, looping pass.

The ‘Boks gradually slow the pace down to a crawl and as Biggar hoists a Garryowen, poor George North chases it down with – what looks like – a torn hamstring.

The penalty comes for a tackle off the ball.


PENALTY! Wales 6 South Africa 9 (Biggar ’39)


And there goes North, another huge loss to injury for Wales.

Owen Watkin comes in to replace him, a centre deployed on the wing.


Here comes the sec0nd half. 

Can South Africa unleash their bench with the same impact as last weekend? Or can Wales find something within that rag-tag injury-ravaged bunch for swing this tie their way?


Oof! Faf de Klerk follows up a howler of a catch on the touchline with a brilliant hit on his opposite number. He then tangles with Jake Ball in a mismatch for the ages, but the penalty goes Wales’ way in the end and Biggar can square this up.


PENALTY! Wales 9 South Africa 9 (Biggar ’46)


Pretty concise analysis of this mess by Rud


Here’s the clip of that entertaining De Klerk-Ball scrap.


Here come the reinforcements for South Africa and an attacking maul is a strong platform for them to set their stall out in.

Marx makes a big carry off the back of the maul. The rumble right for five phases and Snyman gets over the gainline too.

De Allende threatening for the line…


With a penalty advantage, South Africa finally show some width and ambition. And they get their reward, De Allende powers past Biggar and hands off Tom Williams before twisting to plant on the line.

A breakthrough!

And Pollard steps up to slot a clean conversion.

Wales 9 South Africa 16


Rassie’s fuming as the ‘Boks concede a penalty and invite Wales to come and chase a response.

They’ve rumbled through 10+ phases towards the SA posts. This is a serious effort from the Grand Slam winners.


Penalty comes for Wales and Biggar attempts to grubber to the corner. De Klerk is there to clear the danger.

Alun Wyn Jones passes up an easy three with 17 minutes to, Wales are going for it here and you do feel this is their best chance.


Wales deliver on AWJ’s big-ball call to go for a scrum. Tomos Williams gets the ball away before being pummeled in contact, Jon Davies flicks the final pas left to Adams and the wing is in in the corner.

And up steps Leigh Halfpenny to thump over a superb touchline penalty.

Wales 16 South Africa 16


14 minutes to go.

If you’ve come this far, don’t go anywhere.


Frans Steyn and Francois Louw are on for the Boks in place of Le Roux and the captain Siya Kolisi. Huge call from Rassie, really, with 11 to play.

Wales’ much-trumpeted fitness is bubbling to the fore here and the red pack is winning multiple little battles around the ruck.


There’s the Welsh try that has this game so delicately poised on a knife edge.


There’s an audible gasp in from the crowd as Rhys Patchell draws back for a drop-goal.

The effort is short and off target.

Cue: Donal Lenihan reminding viewers that there’s 10 minutes each way of extra time ahead if we conclude the 80 minutes level.


PENALTY! Wales 16 South Africa 19 (Pollard ’75)

Penalty goes against Wales for going off their feet. And back the pendulum swings as Pollard shows icy blood to slot a 45-metre angled effort through the sticks.


The clock is on South Africa’s side now and they are more than happy to turn the screw with some kicks in behind Wales, turning them around and pinning them in the 22.

De Klerk’s kick finds touch. And from the line-out, AWJ’s take is excellently disrupted by Snyman and the ‘Boks get a scrum.

90 seconds remaining. The Boks are going to the World Cup final.


Scrum penalty green. And the Boks celebrate.

It was an ugly, ugly contest for the first hour.

But when push came to shove, South Africa had more in reserve and managed to squeak their way into the World Cup final.

They’ll need to improve to match England next Saturday. But you wouldn’t put it past them.


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About the author:

Sean Farrell


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