South Africa 23 – 19 Wales
What a cracking game to start the quarter-finals.
For a start, that’s a tribute to the discipline of all the players and the accuracy of the referees. No ill-discipline offences, clean and clear rucks, scrums that stayed up. The ball in play.
And, as they say, a game of two halves. In the first, the Welsh played smart: clever kicks in behind, dynamic running. The Springboks had zero time on attack in the Welsh 22, but picked up four penalties to stay in touch. Their defence of the high kicks was dismal in parts, leading directly to the Welsh try.
The second half was about Springbok pressure: vast territory and possession, if not penetration. The Welsh defended totally, except for that one little moment when Duane Vermeulen took the ball from the scrum, drew two players, and slipped a brilliant behind the back offload to Fourie du Preez for the try in the corner.
The Welsh will make no excuses about their appalling injury toll. No excuses, but perhaps some reasons. While Gareth Anscombe was solid at fullback, Halfpenny would have been a treasure. Biggar was superb, until he was dragged off complaining in the 73rd minute for a concussion assessment: and in those last dying minutes the thinning bench showed.
It was a match where you would say that Wales were desperately unlucky not to advance, and South Africa very fortunate. The former played with ambition, the latter with controlled pressure.
The Springboks look strong but narrow. No midfield penetration despite having the talents of de Allende and Kriel. That’s the coach’s effect, just there.
The Welsh coach’s influence could be seen in the cohesion and accuracy of attack and defence. Everyone knew what they were doing, and got to where they were needed: except for those last few minutes when the oxygen was gone.
So, ups to Gatland, and still a question mark for Meyer.
A final thing to remember: two drop goals, one by each team.