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Erasmus' Boks set up World Cup final with England after edging Wales

Handré Pollard’s place-kicking was crucial as the Boks edged the semi-final in Yokohama.

Wales 16

South Africa 19

IT WAS TENSE, it was tactical, and it was often hard to watch, but Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks edged over the line in their semi-final against Wales to set up a World Cup final against England next Saturday back here in Yokohama. 

japan-rugby-wcup-wales-south-africa The Boks celebrate Damian de Allende's try. Source: Eugene Hoshiko

The accurate boot of out-half Handré Pollard, who nailed all four of his penalties and one conversion, proved crucial, while centre Damian de Allende scored the Boks’ only try of the game.

Warren Gatland’s Wales were as competitive as ever and made the Boks wait until the 76th minute to secure their win through Pollard’s boot, but the South Africans deserved this victory. The Welsh lack of ambition in attack was jarring.

Josh Adams’ try for Gatland’s side with 15 minutes remaining ensured a tense endgame in Yokohama but the Boks’ forward power and ability to pressure Alun Wyn Jones and co. told as their maul secured the winning penalty.

In truth, this game was a tough watch, with the teams trading an incredible 81 kicks and showing little or no desire to attack with ball in hand but Erasmus and co. won’t care a jot.

They advance into the World Cup final for the first time since 2007, when the Boks beat England.

That outcome looks less likely this time around after Eddie Jones’ side were sensational in knocking off the All Blacks last night, but the Springboks will back themselves to frustrate, stifle and outmuscle the English.

dan-biggar-kicks-a-penalty Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Boks led 9-6 at the break after a tight, turgid and downright dull first-half that featured 40 kicks from hand combined. Both teams were intent on applying aerial pressure but were also guilty of some poor kicking.

Erasmus’ men were first off the mark in the 15th minute when Pollard slotted three points to punish Wales openside Justin Tipuric for failing to roll away from his tackle on Sbu Nkosi but the Welsh had equalised within three minutes.

That penalty came from positive attacking play, good handling from Jonathan Davies and Dan Biggar sending wing Josh Adams scurrying down the left for the second time, with Boks fullback Willie le Roux shooting offside on the next phase and Biggar slotting the penalty.

A knock-on of the resulting restart by Ross Moriarty proved costly for Wales as the Boks powered up at scrum time to earn a second shot for Pollard, who was on target from wide on the right for 6-3.

The Boks finally fired with ball in hand on kick return near the half-hour mark as a clever offload from outside centre Lukhanyo Am freed le Roux, who found Faf de Klerk on his inside, but Damian de Allende kicked the ball away after the linebreak.

For the second night in a row, The Fields of Athenry rang out in the stadium in Yokohama, with plenty of Ireland supporters in attendance, before the Boks’ pack earned another penalty, this time a threatening maul drawing Wales hooker Ken Owens into a side entry.

george-north-gets-past-faf-de-klerk Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Pollard nailed his third penalty and Wales had another blow as tighthead Tomas Francis was forced off with an arm injury following his tackle chasing the restart.

Wales then had a big aerial win through out-half Biggar leaping over Boks number eight Duane Vermeulen before passing to right wing George North, only for de Klerk to tap-tackle him from behind.

North was injured in the process and forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, although the attack did lead to a penalty as Vermeulen tackled Aaron Wainwright off the ball and Biggar was able to draw Wales to within three points for the interval.

Gatland’s men were level within five minutes of the restart, de Klerk dropping a Halfpenny kick over the touchline and the Welsh pack earning a penalty for South Africa side entry from the ensuing lineout.

Biggar continued the accuracy off the tee for a 9-9 scoreline. Wales loosehead Wyn Jones then won an impressive turnover penalty but Wales’ subsequent lineout attack ended with a forward pass from Biggar.

The game finally ignited in the 57th minute after the Boks won a scrum penalty and kicked down into Welsh territory and showed some ambition with their attack.

First, Pollard threw an offload and then he darted through the Welsh fringe defence to bring a penalty advantage that Erasmus’ side sent wide to the left, where de Allende beat Biggar’s poor tackle attempt and surged through replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams to dot down.

The reliable Pollard converted and the Boks finally had some scoreline separation at 16-9. 

wales-v-south-africa-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Source: Adam Davy

But the tit-for-tat nature of the contest continued as tighthead Lewis earned a turnover penalty at the breakdown and Rhys Patchell – just on for Biggar – sent it into the left corner, from where the Welsh forwards battered at the Boks tryline, who defended superbly.

The Boks did, however, give up a penalty and Wales bravely opted for a scrum, nailing the attack down the left-hand shortside. Moriarty offloaded under pressure from de Klerk off the base, before Tomos Williams – on at scrum-half – and Jonathan Davies’ sharp hands sent left wing Adams over to score.

Leigh Halfpenny, taking over the place-kicking duties, nailed the conversion from wide left to bring the game level again at 16-16.

Patchell snapped at a long-range drop-goal attempt in the 73rd minute as the tension continued to rise but replacement Boks back row Francois Louw eased the pressure on his team with a big turnover penalty soon after.

The South African pack – by now fully bolstered by the six forward replacements Erasmus had named – again had an impact from the resulting lineout as their maul forced the Welsh to collapse and Pollard was able to nudge them back in front with his fourth successful penalty shot from a position close to the left-hand five-metre channel and 44m out.

 

Fittingly, the game ended with a scrum penalty for the Boks and Pollard booting the ball out of play.

Wales scorers:

TriesJosh Adams

ConversionsLeigh Halfpenny [1 from 1]

PenaltiesDan Biggar [3 from 3]

South Africa scorers:

TriesDamian de Allende

ConversionsHandré Pollard [1 from 1]

PenaltiesHandré Pollard [4 from 4]

WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; George North (Owen Watkin ’40), Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (Rhys Patchell ’58), Gareth Davies (Tomos Williams ’55); 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 ’69), Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (Francois Steyn ’69); Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira (Steven Kitshoff ’48), Bongi Mbonambi (Malcolm Marx ’48), Frans Malherbe (Vincent Koch ’48); Eben Etzebeth (RG Snyman ’53), Lood de Jager (Franco Mostert ’58); Siya Kolisi (captain) (Francois Louw ’69), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacement not used: Herschel Jantjies.

Referee: Jerome Garces [France].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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