Watch out Wales - Springboks will punish defensive frailty

Rugby News Service analysts cast an eye on Sunday's semi-final and identify a Welsh weakness that South Africa will be keen to exploit.

TOKYO, 26 Oct - Wales and South Africa have shown offensive power out wide at this World Cup but both have also displayed some defensive vulnerability.

As we saw in Wales' s matches against Australia and Fiji a well-timed cross-kick from Dan Biggar to Hadleigh Parkes can be very effective, producing tries against both. This is a weapon South Africa will have to be wary of.

As well as cross-kicks to the wings, Wales have also passed wide really well at Rugby World Cup 2019. The team’s second try against Fiji came initially from carries around the base of the ruck under the posts. This sucked defenders in, and produced a five-on-three overlap for Josh Adams to score in the corner.

Adams’s third try against Fiji was a three-on-three out wide. Jonathan Davies’s pace and hand-off took out all three defenders before a world-class offload put Adams through in the corner to score.

Wales, while dangerous with ball in hand, have been caught out frequently in defence, especially when their backline is defending attacking backs. Australia took advantage of this for their first try: a simple run down the left by Samu Kerevi followed by a Bernard Foley cross-kick left Adams out of position, allowing Adam-Ashley Cooper to touch down.

This, along with two Fiji tries by Josua Tuisova and Kini Murimurivalu, showed significant weakness on the left side of the Wales defence.

Wales have struggled with midfield defence too. Wales appeared to have enough men in the defensive line to deal with a French attack which led to Virimi Vakatawa's try. However, a simple delayed pass from Romain Ntamack to Damian Penaud meant the latter broke the line, and his offload gave Vakatawa a great chance to score.

Vakatawa had caused Wales problems earlier in the game, when he received the ball just outside his 22-metre line and powered through the mismatch of defenders Wales had put up against him. Back-rower Josh Navidi was initially beaten by Vakatawa in France’s own half; Vakatawa's offload went to Ntamack who then drew the defence and put scrum-half Antoine Dupont clear. Dupont’s pass leaves Charles Ollivon with the relatively simple task of finishing under the posts, pictured above.

Moving on to South Africa, one of their biggest weapons at RWC 2019 has been their driving maul. South African mauling power was seen in its purest state when the Springboks beat Japan in the quarter-finals. The driving maul in the video below started from just before the halfway line and finished well inside the 22. Malcolm Marx broke off, offloading to Faf De Klerk who finished the move off with a good finish.

Wales have scored tries out wide throughout the tournament, and this is an area where South Africa's defence, one of the best at this World Cup, may have a rare weakness,

In the opening match, a cross-kick from Richie Mo’unga to Sevu Reece opened the Springboks up out wide as left winger Makazole Mapimpi was caught out of position. This was repeated moments later to begin the move from which the All Blacks scored their second try.

The South Africa defence was also caught out in the quarter-final inside Japan's half. As the clip below shows, simple passing behind and across the line created a chance for Kenki Fukuoka to break the line and a similar opportunity for Wales on Sunday may well end up in a try.

South Africa’s defence appears to have the edge in this match-up but Wales may be able to take advantage out wide. If Wales can get ahead as they did in the last match between the teams, a surprise could be on the cards. If not, South Africa’s physicality may give them the edge.

RNS cp/sdg/bo