Rugby World Cup Semi-Final: Wales v South Africa6 min read
Wales will attempt to reach their first World Cup final on Sunday when Warren Gatland’s side take on the might of South Africa in their semi-final in Yokohama.
Wales fortunate to reach semi-final
The Six Nations Grand Slam champions will be relieved to be in the last four after a huge scare against France. Wales struggled to find any fluency against their European rivals and were undoubtedly fortunate to edge to a 20-19 quarter-final win.
For the second game in a row, Wales started sluggishly and found themselves chasing the game. France caught them out during the first half and Jacques Brunel’s side deservedly led 12-0 after eight minutes and 19-10 at half-time.
The key turning point came after the break with lock Sebastien Vahaamahina sent off for a reckless elbow on Aaron Wainwright.
Wales, who topped their pool after beating Australia, eventually took advantage of the extra man with Ross Moriarty’s late converted try securing their semi-final place.
There is no doubt Wales have made a habit of winning and their run of 14 successive victories this year shows the character in their squad.
But Wales will need to rediscover their defensive solidity and raise their level if they are to overcome the Springboks this weekend.
Wales also suffered a huge blow before the semi-final after influential full-back Liam Williams was ruled out with an ankle injury in training. Leigh Halfpenny takes his place.
Springboks offer huge physical test
South Africa have a rich history in the tournament and the two-time champions are building strong momentum ahead of a potential third World Cup triumph.
The Rugby Championship winners have only lost once in 2019 – their opening match in Japan against holders New Zealand.
Rassie Erasmus’ side were punished by the clinical All Blacks in their 23-13 defeat but their response since has been strong.
South Africa were expected to be given a test by Japan in their quarter-final but the direct style and physical power of the Springboks was too much for the hosts.
After a tight first half, South Africa pulled away to win 26-3 with prolific wing Makazole Mapimpi scoring twice, taking his tally to five tries in the tournament.
It may not have always been pleasing on the eye, but no-one can dispute it was exceptionally effective and South Africa’s kick-chase game is a match for any side in the competition.
The Springboks must though cope without potent attacker Cheslin Kolbe in this match after being ruled out with an ankle injury, with the wing replaced by S’Busiso Nkosi.
Although South Africa are favourites, Wales actually have the better recent record, having won the last four matches between the teams.
Three of those took place in Cardiff though and it could be significant the last full-strength match on neutral ground was a 23-19 quarter-final win for South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.
Wales will have to improve significantly on their performance against France if they are to maintain their winning run against South Africa.
The Springboks look in better shape than their opponents and have the best defence in the world.
In their last two matches, against Uruguay and France, Wales have started poorly and South Africa look worth backing to cover a four-point first-half handicap.
The Springboks are fancied to hold off Wales and reach the World Cup final but their opponents will push them all the way in Yokohama.
Six of South Africa’s last eight wins against Wales have been by no more than five points which suggests a bet on a victory up to seven points merits support.
South Africa to win by 1-7 points
South Africa -4 to win the first-half handicap