Valiant Wales make history against wayward Springboks in Bloemfontein to square series

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Jesse Kriel was a marked man. (Photo by Charle Lombard/Gallo Images)
Jesse Kriel was a marked man. (Photo by Charle Lombard/Gallo Images)

At the Free State Stadium

An imperfect but composed Wales made history on Saturday evening by valiantly securing a dramatic 13-12 victory over the Springboks - their first ever on African soil - to set up the perfect finale in the three-match series in Cape Town next week.

Following Ireland and England's notable wins over the All Blacks and Australia respectively, there was a sense of unease among some Bloemfontein supporters that the rugby gods would perhaps indeed be smiling on the Dragons.

The visitors had talked much in the build-up about not relenting on their feisty attitude that served them so well at Loftus last week and, at least privately, would've fancied themselves squaring the series.

That fire wasn't all that evident as South Africa's virtual scratch combination did most of the playing and surely should've converted that superiority into something more substantial on the scoreboard.

Instead, they were indebted to skipper Handre Pollard's four penalties - on a night where he took the lead as attacking ball-carrier rather than the boot - as the inaccuracy of their overall attacking pattern led to litany of potential points going down the drain.

Some it was down to mistakes, hooker Joseph Dweba throwing in skew from an attacking lineout and a powerful scrum going awry because the Boks tried to apply too much pressure. 

But there was also an instance where South Africa's ball-in-hand approach was too predictable, an example being fullback Warrick Gelant's sweeping run and pass early in the first half perhaps going to debutant winger Kurt-Lee Arendse too early, meaning he was covered pretty well.

In fact, the Boks made 184 running metres in the first half to Wales' 34, who defended manfully even if they lacked any punch with the ball.   

The third quarter followed a similar pattern as the hosts, with scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse at the forefront of a decent box-kicking tactic, seemingly had momentum on their side.

When veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones was yellow carded by referee Angus Gardner for a patently ridiculous hands-in call - he never touched the ball - circumstance was seemingly conspiring against the Welsh, who also saw inspirational pivot and skipper Dan Biggar leave the field.

However, that adversity actually proved a catalyst as they clawed their way back, primarily because the Springbok combination - now featuring a raft of replacements - lost their composure.

The Boks were perhaps a bit unlucky with the penalty for obstruction in a lineout in the 63rd minute, an opportunity gleefully capitalised on by replacement No 10 Gareth Anscombe.

Emboldened, Wales stuck to their guns in their own slapdash way and smelled blood when they went to touch for a penalty in the 76th minute.

South Africa, looking unnerved, immediately conceded a penalty advantage and, conscious of a potential carding, didn't react quickly enough to a sweeping passing move that saw substitute Adams go dot down in the corner.

Anscombe's superb touchline conversion meant South Africa would have to score.

Replacement prop Vincent Koch's knock-on duly sealed the deal.

Point scorers:

Springboks - (3) 12

Penalties: Pollard (4)

Wales - (3) 13

Try: Josh Adams

Conversion: Gareth Anscombe

Penalties: Dan Biggar, Anscombe

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