Injury-hit Wales edge Boks
MATCH REPORT: The Springboks ended the year on a poor note when they went down 22-24 to a Wales side missing a number of key players in Cardiff on Saturday.
The difference between the two sides was only a conversion, the scoreboard says. But the scoreboard does not tell the full story of the difference in skill and organisation.
Wales, a much weakened side, were better at catching and passing and better at getting into the right positions. They also kicked better, especially out of hand.
In fact it was the boot that set up 14 points for Wales in the first 10 minutes. And their target was the South African left. They scored their three tries on the left and nearly got a fourth down that channel as well.
Dan Biggar kicked off for Wales and Wales attacked as, yet again, the Springboks could not get out of their territory at a kick-off.
From a scrum on Wales's left, near the half-way line, Biggar hoisted a diagonal kick to the right. Hallam Amos, completely unmarked, caught the kick, beat Andries Coetzee and passed inside to Scott Williams who scored. Leigh Halfpenny converted, 7-0 after 5 minutes.
Four minutes later Biggar kicked Wales to their second try.
Wales threw in to a line-out on their right. Taulupe Faletau won the ball and Biggar chipped neatly over the advancing Springbok backs. Hadleigh Parkes, a New Zealander making his debut for Wales, swooped on the ball under Jesse Kriel's nose and score near the posts. 14-0 after 9 minutes.
It was a dream start for the Dragons.
They nearly got another when Biggar, going right, kicked another high diagonal and Pollard did not catch it. Amos grabbed it and started running. He gave inside to Faletau and Wales were close. Amos got closest but lost the ball forward, The Springboks survived.
In the first half, the Springboks were not penalised but Wales were - six times. Two penalties set the Springboks attacking and they mauled over the line. Malcolm Marx - and all his team-mates - believed that he had scored but the TMO could find no evidence of grounding. The Springboks had to be satisfied with a five-metre scrum from which they attacked. Francois Venter was close but Wales intercepted and Steff Evans went racing down the midfield, kicking ahead to put his side back in Springbok territory.
The Springboks attacked down the right with Siya Kolisi and Marx prominent. They went through phases and Josh Navidi was penalised for a high tackle. Pollard goaled the easy kick. 14-3 after 31 minutes.
The Springbok got the ball back from the kick-off, and Coetzee was to kick, but Biggar charged down the kick. Faletau got the ball and, as Warrick Gelant was tackling him, passed inside to Parkes who scored his second try in his first Test. 21-3 after 32 minutes. Wales would score again 35 minutes later and then it counted enormously.
Wales kicked into the Springbok 22 where Dillyn Leyds got the ball and started running, darting through Welshmen in counterattack. The ball came to Kriel on the left and he hoofed it downfield. Gelant won the race to the ball bouncing in the Welsh in-goal and he scored a try. 21-10 after 38 minutes.
In the last passage of play of the half, Eben Etzebeth was injured and replaced at the start of the second half by Oupa Mohoje.
The Springboks attacked in the start of the second half. They went wide and Dan du Preez was close. A penalty have them a five-metre line-out. They mauled and Steven Kitshoff was close. The ball came back to Cronje who gave to Pollard who burst through Aled Davies to score. His conversion hit the upright and stayed out. That narrow piece of wood would prove valuable to Wales. 21-15 after 46 minutes.
Rhys Patchell came on for Biggar who went for a head injury assessment, which he failed.
Patchell's first act was to kick a diagonal to the right where Amos was, again, unmarked but a pass went astray and the Springboks survived - and scored.
From a line-out the Springboks went right, then back left where Marx gave Kriel a perfect pass some 15 metres from the line. Kriel raced ahead and through Halfpenny to score in the corner. Pollard converted from far out and, surprise, the Springboks led 22-21 with 15 minutes to play.
With 13 minutes to play, Pieter-Stef du Toit was penalised at a tackle in front of his posts and Halfpenny goaled the simple kick to restore the lead to Wales at 24-22.
In those 13 minutes, Wales defended with great determination as the Springboks strove to get back the lead. Their efforts were twice thwarted when Elton Jantjies knocked on and then the Welsh held Lukhanyo Am up for a scrum, the final whistle sounded.
for the third time in succession Wales had beaten the Springboks at Principality/Millennium Stadium.
Man of the Match: The candidates are Welsh - Dan Biggar, Hadleigh Parkes, Hallam Amos and the loose forwards Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau, and our choice is Taulupe Faletau for his hard work on defence, his strength in carrying and his part in Parkes's try.
Moment of the Match: Dan Biggar's diagonal to Hallam Amos.
Villain of the Match: Nobody on the field, nobody at all.
Tries: Williams, Parkes 2
Cons: Halfpenny 3
For South Africa:
Tries: Gelant, Pollard, Coetzee
Cons: Pollard 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler; 5 Alun-Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin.
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Warrick Gelant, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Lukhanyo Am.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)