South Africa narrowly avoided a humbling defeat against Wales after they were awarded a penalty-try at the death. Photo by: AFP

Mbombela – South Africa narrowly avoided a humbling defeat after they were awarded a penalty-try at the death for a 31-30 victory over a spirited Wales side in Mbombela on Saturday afternoon.

The Welsh would feel hard done by the defeat and they would be wondering what they need to do for their maiden victory over the Springboks on South African soil as they were the better side on the day.

The Springboks should, however, be commended for their never-say-die attitude and the victory would do much for character building.

An average defensive effort and a lack of good possession ultimately led to a poor performance by the Springboks which only a week ago turned in a comprehensive victory over the same Welsh side.

The Welsh gave the hosts some of their own medicine as they completely dominated the opening salvos.

The visitors took better care of their possession which frustrated the Boks and 13 minutes into the encounter they were three points up courtesy of a Dan Biggar penalty conversion.

Five minutes later the Celtic nation scored the first try of the match with Jamie Robberts finishing after Alex Cuthbert initially breached the defences, with Biggar converting.

The Welsh continued their shock and awe start when Cuthbert was a rewarded for his enterprising display with a try in the 22nd minute.

The powerful running Cuthbert sliced through South Africa's average defensive effort after having a few earlier stabs to score the try which was converted by Biggar.

With 12 minutes left in the half and no points to show for their efforts, South African captain Victor Matfield opted for a lineout 10 minutes from the line to set up the driving maul.

South Africa advanced to within a metre of the line but a Welsh infringement meant Match referee Steve Walsh had to intervene.

Walsh showed Luke Charteris a yellow card for entering from the side and again warned the tourists he would bin another player if they did not clean up their discipline.

A minute later Walsh awarded a South Africa a penalty-try following repeated infringements by the visitors before he yellow-carded Biggar for not rolling away.

With the Welsh two men down, the Springboks ran the ball from their own 22 from the restart with outside centre JP Pietersen toying with the Welsh defenders, as he bobbed-and-weaved his way over the advantage line.

The speeding Pietersen offloaded to Willie le Roux on his inside, who in turn found Cornal Hendricks out wide to score the try, with Steyn converting to cut the deficit to three points going into the half-time break.

Five minutes after the recess, the Welsh struck again with hooker Ken Owens finding the tryline with Biggar converting to return their lead to seven points.

South Africa pulled back three points through a Steyn penalty in the 55th minute before Biggar responded with a three-pointer two minutes later.

In the 58th minute Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe was sent to the sin-bin for taking Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones in the air, before Biggar added three more points to their score seven minutes later.

With eight minutes left on the clock the fleet-footed Le Roux scored after the team ground their way over the gainline, with Steyn converting to bring the South Africa within six points.

Showing immense character the Springboks launched a barrage of attacks on the line before the ball was sent wide to Hendricks, who dived for the line and was shoved out into touch.

After a few replays, Walsh found that the Welsh player tackled Hendricks without using his arms and if he had not done that a try would have been scored.

Walsh subsequently awarded a penalty-try and it was up to Steyn to convert to give his side a hard-fought one-point victory.

Scorers: South Africa 31 (14): Tries: Penalty-try (2), Cornal Hendricks, Willie le Roux. Conversions: Morne Steyn (4). Penalty:


Wales 30 (17): Tries: Jamie Roberts, Jamie Roberts, Ken Owens. Conversions: Dan Biggar (3). Penalties: Biggar (3). – Sapa