Dan Biggar kicked off the fourth and final match in this Autumn Series, and it didn’t take long for Wales to draw first blood with a Scott Williams score. Biggar’s inch-perfect crossfield kick into the arms of Hallam Amos led to Williams dotting down.
Only a few minutes later Wales were celebrating another try, this time the beneficiary being Wales’ Kiwi debutant Hadleigh Parkes who touched down after a measured Biggar chip which bamboozled the South African defence.
The Springboks didn’t have many chances to assert their famed forward power until the fifteenth minute of the match when they had the put-in at a scrum just inside their own half, and comfortably won a penalty from the ensuing contest.
The first real pressure from the visitors almost led to a try, Malcolm Marx coming close to burrowing over but the Television Match Official ruling that he had been held up. A Scott Williams intercept in the following passage of play led to Steff Evans racing up the field, but the men in red unable to keep hold of possession after kicking it away.
Things evened up as the match wore on and that initial burst of Welsh energy faded into the distance. Still, whilst the game now suited the Springboks they could only manage a penalty just after half an hour despite several forays into Welsh territory.
Wales increased the gap with Parkes grabbing his second of the day – Andries Coetzee’s clearance kick charged down by Biggar with Taulupe Faletau gathering the bouncing ball and delivering an impressive pass under pressure for the debutant to score.
Just before half-time, the Springboks had something to cheer about with their first try of the day through wing Warrick Gelant who easily outpaced the defence to scoop up a chip through and touch down. This gave the visitors some hope before the interval, especially when Pollard slotted a tricky conversion from out wide.
It only took a couple of minutes after the break for another Springbok try, this time through outside-half Pollard. It was a try that seemed inevitable, and despite his missed conversion, Springbok confidence was growing and Wales had a real fight on their hands.
The substitution of Rhys Patchell for Dan Biggar soon after was sure to raise some eyebrows but the youngster is a real attacking threat and brought the number of Scarlets players in the backline to six, with Hallam Amos the odd one out.
South Africa continued to grow in stature and the visitors took the lead for the first time in the match with their third try in a row – Jessie Kriel powering through Leigh Halfpenny to touch down, Pollard impressively dissecting the uprights from with touchline conversion. The game hung in the balance.
A Halfpenny penalty saw the home side narrowly regain the lead, but with over ten minutes left there was no guarantee of victory and both sides had periods of possession and dominance.
The Springboks were under pressure to come up with a score of any sort, but despite some sustained attacks they were unable to get any more points on the board and it was a knock-on which led to Wales relieving the pressure and pinning South Africa back deep in their own half.
A late foray into the Welsh half didn’t deliver anything, and a scrambled hoof down field from the homeside saw a desperate scramble in the South African ranks to no avail, and Wales held on for the victory in their last match of the 2017 Autumn Internationals.
A victory against South Africa is always something to be welcomed, but in reality Wales should have won by more and supporters will await the Six Nations with some trepidation.
Man of the Match: Hadleigh Parkes