CARDIFF – A stirring second-half comeback wasn’t enough as the Springboks lost their final Test of 2017 on Saturday in a 24-22 defeat to Wales in Cardiff.
Having been 21-10 down at halftime, Allister Coetzee’s team fought back after the break to reclaim the lead at 22-21.
But Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny slotted a 65th-minute penalty to put the hosts ahead, and they held on for a memorable victory, considering the fact that they were missing a number of regulars due to injuries and club commitments.
It was all Wales in the opening stages. They broke the Springbok defence as early as the third minute, with flyhalf Dan Biggar stretched the visitors with a good cross-kick which was caught by wing Hallam Amos, and centre Scott Williams rounded off for a 7-0 advantage.
Five minutes later they dotted down for a second time, with Biggar again the catalyst. A little chip over the top caught out the Bok defence, with Jesse Kriel unable to fall on the ball ahead of former Southern Kings centre Hadleigh Parkes, who dived on it to score on his Welsh Test debut.
At 14-0 down, it was a long road back for Coetzee’s men, and they weren’t helped by individual errors from Ross Cronjé, Andries Coetzee and Handré Pollard, who missed a penalty kick to touch.
Malcolm Marx, though, was denied what looked like a legitimate try from a rolling maul in the 19th minute, with the TMO choosing to award a five-metre scrum instead of a five-pointer.
Pollard got his team on the board with a penalty in the 32nd minute, but Parkes got his second try of the day soon after that.
Andries Coetzee’s nightmare outing continued when his clearance from the 22 was charged-down by Biggar, and No 8 Taulupe Faletau showed his skills to pick up the loose ball to put Parkes over.
There was time for the Boks to hit back before halftime, with Dillyn Leyds finding Kriel, who chipped ahead for Warrick Gelant to win the race and score.
The South Africans were rocked by what looked like an arm injury to captain Eben Etzebeth, who was replaced by Oupa Mohoje at halftime.
But it almost seemed to spur them into action, with Steven Kitshoff stopped just short, and then Pollard forced his way over in the 46th minute.
The Bok No 10 missed the conversion, but about 10 minutes later, Gelant displayed the touch that has seen many observers calling for his selection this year.
Picked out of position at left wing, the Bulls star came into the line almost as a fullback and engaged the defence by running straight, before flinging a snappy pass to Marx, who drew the last defender before sending Kriel over.
With 20 minutes to go and a number of substitutes on the field, the Boks created a couple of inspired attacks, with Siya Kolisi prominent.
But when Halfpenny kicked Wales back into the lead, Wales were good enough to withstand a late South African onslaught to beat the Boks for the third time in a row since 2014.
Wales 24 – Tries: Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes (2). Conversions: Leigh Halfpenny (3). Penalty: Halfpenny (1).
South Africa 22 – Tries: Warrick Gelant, Handré Pollard, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Pollard (2). Penalty: Pollard (1).
African News Agency (ANA)