From the archives: Four classic Wales v South Africa clashes

Epic encounters between these two proud rugby nations include a historic win on a ground-breaking day and a couple of tight and tense World Cup thrillers.
TOKYO, 25 Oct - The ledger between South Africa and Wales has traditionally weighed heavily towards the southern hemisphere team despite a history of close matches. The past decade or so -  in which Wales recorded their first victory over the Springboks - has been different.
 

1999 tour match (Cardiff, 26 June)

Wales 29-19 South Africa

Wales celebrated a first-ever victory over South Africa, the then reigning World champions, to mark the official opening of the Millennium Stadium, which would host the 1999 final a few months later.

Only about 29,000 spectators, and a few construction workers, were allowed in to watch as building work was still going on and the game was just one year after Wales had been humiliated 96-13 in Pretoria.

Mark Taylor, pictured below, sealed his place in the history books when he became the first player to score a try in the stadium, although the announcer called out Allan Bateman as the centre duo had swapped shirt numbers beforehand.

Winger Gareth Thomas added another try in the second-half while current skills coach Neil Jenkins kicked 19 points in the historic victory.

"I don't think they laid the pitch until a couple of days before the game, so the final training session before was a bit makeshift," said hooker Garin Jenkins.

"There was some overhanging girder work and we had to wear the red plastic safety helmets to the pitch because there was a lot of work going on.

"There was an incentive and belief in the camp and we wanted to get a scalp against a southern hemisphere side."

Of the previous 12 games since the sides first met in Swansea in 1906, the Springboks had won 11 of them with Wales managing one 6-6 draw in Cardiff in 1970.

Wales would not beat South Africa again until 2014 to end a run of 16 successive defeats.

Rugby World Cup 2011, pool match (Wellington, 11 September)

South Africa 17-16 Wales

The opening match of the tournament nearly derailed the Springboks’ bid to top Pool D on their way to the quarter-finals.

Full-back Frans Steyn scored a third-minute try to put the South Africans into a 7-0 lead in Wellington, but rocked by match-ending injuries to Jean de Villiers in the first half and Victor Matfield soon after half-time, Peter de Villiers’s team were staring defeat in the face.

Wales, inspired by a man-of-the-match performance from captain Sam Warburton, recovered from a 10-6 half-time deficit through the boot of full-back James Hook, who kicked three penalties and a conversion.

The big moment for Warren Gatland’s team came in the 54th minute, when number eight Taulupe Faletau crashed over following a typical defence-busting charge by inside-centre Jamie Roberts.

It was always going to be tough for the Welsh to hold on to a 16-10 lead for 25 minutes, though.

Soon enough, the Boks made the breakthrough.

Instead of opting for the posts, they kicked a penalty into touch, and after a series of surges from the forwards, scrum-half Fourie du Preez popped the ball up for Francois Hougaard, who had replaced Bryan Habana on the wing, to dive over under the uprights with 15 minutes left.

There was a late chance for Wales to pull off an upset, but Hook pushed his penalty attempt wide five metres from the right-hand touchline, and South Africa held on for a dramatic victory.

Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter-final (Twickenham, 17 October)

South Africa 23-19 Wales

After a close shave at the 2011 tournament, the stakes were significantly higher four years later in a quarter-final at Twickenham.

With England referee Wayne Barnes again the man with the whistle – as he was in 2011 – the Boks and Red Dragons slugged it out for 74 minutes until a piece of individual brilliance from number eight Duane Vermeulen set up the winning try for Fourie du Preez.

A clash of styles saw the Boks utilise their power game with a big pack of forwards, while the Welsh tried to stretch their opponents’ defence with a ball-in-hand approach.

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard kicked five penalties and a drop goal, while opposite number Dan Biggar was not far behind with three penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.

Wales were holding on to their 19-18 advantage in the closing stages, but then came the decisive moment.

A superb Springboks scrum opened up the blindside for Vermeulen, who managed to draw both scrum-half Lloyd Williams and winger Alex Cuthbert’s attention before throwing a back-flip pass to captain and number nine Du Preez, who had enough pace to dive over in the left-hand corner.

“I would like to kiss Fourie,” coach Heyneke Meyer said afterwards.

“I have always said coaching is overrated. You have to pick players with character and who perform under pressure. That try was just pure genius.”
 

2017 tour match (Cardiff, 2 December)

Wales 24-22 South Africa

That quarter-final at Twickenham in 2015 is the only South Africa victory in the past six encounters between the two nations, with most being decided by a single score. 

Two years ago they played out a thriller with Wales racing into a 21-3 lead within 30 minutes, taking advantage of poor South African defence.

New Zealand-born centre Hadleigh Parkes, pictured, scored two tries for a memorable debut, having only qualified under residency rules the day before.

Scott Williams bagged the other try before the Springboks hit back with 19 unanswered points to take the lead in the second-half thanks to tries from Warrick Gelant, Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel.

But full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked a 66th minute penalty to give Warren Gatland’s side a nervy victory.

"That was the most nervous I’ve been apart from my wedding day," said Parkes, who is set to play in Sunday’s semi-final. "I was probably more nervous walking down the tunnel to do the anthem than anything else. I had to put in a few hours trying to learn that.

"I recorded Rhys (Patchell) doing each line by line and then recorded him doing the whole verse and learnt it that way."

RNS ig/am/ajr/sw