Springboks show resilience to claim stunning win over Wales in Cardiff epic

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Makazole Mapimpi (Getty)
Makazole Mapimpi (Getty)

It was tense from the first whistle to the last, but the Springboks emerged 23-18 victors in the most gruelling of Test matches against Wales at a wet Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. 

AS IT HAPPENED | Wales 18-23 Springboks 

It is their first win there in five Tests and eight years. 

It was far from pretty for large parts, but the Boks dug deep when it mattered most and found a way. 

There was a bizarre moment in the second half when a spectator, tackled by security and lying on the turf, potentially stopped Wales speedster Liam Williams from scoring a try, but that does not change the fact that the world champions have started their three-match end of year tour with a valuable win. 

The roar from 75 000 people packed into the Principality Stadium was unmissable throughout the contest, and it was impossible not to cast the mind back to the epic stage these two proud nations shared in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup in Japan where one penalty kick was the difference as the Boks got over the line.

This time, however, the difference was a Malcolm Marx try from a rolling maul that had struggled to find its feet all night. 

As was the case in 2019, and as was expected, the boots of Dan Biggar and Handre Pollard dominated the early exchanges before Biggar put the hosts ahead on 10 minutes with a routine penalty under the posts. 

The Boks hit back just a couple of minutes later through a penalty of their own, but they infringed at a ruck from the resulting restart to give the lead straight back. 

Damian Willemse, given a massive start at fullback, was then out of the match with a suspected concussion after just 15 minutes and was replaced by Frans Steyn. 

The kicking battle continued, but both sides were prepared to turn down three points in search of a try. 

There was just one scrum in the entire first half, and it went the way of South Africa with Pollard making it 6-6 from the tee. 

The Boks were not getting any joy from their rolling maul, with Wales nullifying that threat with some shrewd shoving work that often looked to come too early but escaped the whistle, and as the half grew on it was the Boks who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. 

Biggar kicked his third penalty from point blank range to make it 9-6, before Ox Nche was shown a yellow card for changing lanes and creating an obstruction.

Biggar kicked that penalty, too, and Wales had manufactured a six-point lead at 12-6. 

The Boks bounced back strongly - they were dominating the physical exchanges but unable to look after the ball for sustained periods - and Wales then received a yellow card of their own when prop Rhys Carre was sin-binned.

Siya Kolisi turned down the three points, though, and instead opted to set up another attacking lineout that resulted in a turnover. 

The skipper changed his tune on the stroke of half-time, and instructed Pollard to take on a tough kick from distance and out left. 

The Bok pivot made no mistake, and the 12-9 scoreline at half time told the story of how tight the Test was.

Head coach Jacques Nienaber, with Rassie Erasmus alongside him in the technical box, then replaced his entire front row just minutes into the second period as the Boks began turning to their famed 'Bomb Squad'. 

The Boks were on the front foot, and were camped 5m out from the Welsh line after a Frans Steyn counter-attack. Fourteen phases later, however, Wales enforced a crucial turnover, cleared their lines and then swarmed over an isolated Jesse Kriel to win a penalty. 

Biggar nailed it from 45m - easily his most difficult kick of the night at that stage - and Wales had a 15-9 lead with less than half an hour to play. 

The Boks would have to show calm, patience and world championship pedigree to win it from there, and after a struggling Herschel Jantjies was withdrawn for Cobus Reinach, the Boks won a penalty around 55m out. 

Steyn, as he has done so many times for his country over the years, stepped again again from long range and, again, did the business to narrow the gap to three points. 

The crowd was deafening, getting behind their men in red with every carry, but the Boks muscled another penalty in a contest on the ground that allowed Pollard to make it 15-15, this time from far more comfortable placement as the game entered its final quarter.  

In a bizarre moment, Williams then looked to be heading towards the try line before a supporter on the ground interfered with his run. 

Referee Paul Williams was playing an advantage, though, and Biggar knocked over his sixth penalty of the evening to restore his side's lead at 18-15. 

The Boks, after a stunning counter-attack from Reinach, then thought they had scored their all-important try through superstar wing Makazole Mapimpi, but the celebrations were short-lived after TMO intervention revealed that the Bok runners were in front of Reinach's kick and off-sides. 

Their big moment came on 73 minutes, however, when the rolling maul finally found its feet as the Wales set piece defence disintegrated. 

Marx finished off the move, but Elton Jantjies missed his conversion from out left and at 20-18, the Bok lead was far from safe. 

The Boks played the final minutes of the Test in the right areas of the pitch, and Jantjies kicked a penalty after the hooter to secure a famous triumph where the Boks have had little joy in recent times.  


Wales 18 (12)

Penalties: Dan Biggar (5)

South Africa 23 (9)

Try: Malcolm Marx

Penalties: Handre Pollard (4), Frans Steyn, Elton Jantjies



15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams,  10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rhys Carré

Substitutes: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Liam Williams

South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your views on the World Rugby men's Player of the Year nominations for 2021 not including any Springboks?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It's a disgrace! Both Siya Kolisi AND Eben Etzebeth should have been nominated!
39% - 6532 votes
Siya, at the very least, should have been included after a superb season
6% - 1034 votes
Etzebeth has been SA's best player this year and should feel hard done by
21% - 3547 votes
Get over it! Moaning about this just sounds like sour grapes!
33% - 5571 votes