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Wales 15-20 South Africa

Wales (3) 15
Pens: Halfpenny, Hook 4

South Africa (13) 20
Tries: Jacobs, de Villiers Cons: Pienaar 2 Pens: Pienaar 2

By Gareth Roberts

Andy Powell
Andy Powell was named man-of-the-match on his debut

World champions South Africa made it 21 wins out of 23 starts against Wales, but had to withstand a ferocious home effort at the Millennium Stadium.

The visitors took an early lead with Adrian Jacobs going over and Ruan Pienaar adding a conversion and penalty and were 13-3 ahead at half-time.

And the Boks extended their lead when Jean de Villiers intercepted a James Hook pass to break away and score.

Hook landed four penalties as Wales hit back but the Springboks held on.

Jacobs' try was the visitors' reward for an early high-ball bombardment that was enhanced by well-organised chase-ups and ferocious competition for possession at the breakdown.

Rival wings Shane Williams and JP Pietersen each got hands to the ball in the air, but off the ground the ball came back on the Boks side and great handling from Schalk Burger created the space for Juan Smith to drive on and Jacobs to follow up to score.

The sixth-minute try was converted by fly-half Pienaar, who added a penalty after Jamie Roberts became isolated at a ruck and handled on the floor to give them an early 10-0 cushion.

Burger blew an attacking chance when he dived over a ruck to smash Martyn Williams away and was penalised for it and at the other end Tom Shanklin held on too long after a stirring run from new cap Andy Powell drew support from Alun Wyn Jones.

Wales' tactics in the opening quarter were to keep the ball alive, avoid kicking to South Africa's line-out strength and attempt to catch their opponents on the counter-attack.

It made for a fluid contest when Wales had the ball, but there was no reward on the scoreboard, a failure compounded by Stephen Jones' first penalty attempt going wide after Victor Matfield fell offside at a ruck.

Welsh wing Williams got something by the way of revenge after his up-and-under was spilled by Bryan Habana and in the ensuing melee referee Alain Rolland spotted a hand in a ruck.

The result, with Stephen Jones being treated for injury, was a penalty attempt given to 19-year-old Cardiff Blues debutant Halfpenny, who calmly sent it over from 30m to put Wales on the scoreboard.

Gatland 'furious' with Wales players

Pienaar knocked on as he crossed the line after a thrust from a Burger created panic in the home defence and more good work from Powell as the Welsh scrum came under pressure allowed Gareth Cooper to clear.

Flanker Williams was caught offside at the next line-out and Pienaar restored his side's 10-point lead and Halfpenny narrowly failed with his next shot at goal to leave the Springboks 13-3 ahead at half-time.

Outstanding defence saved the Boks after Leigh Halfpenny latched on to a loose ball to launch a counter-attack that ended with Shanklin hacking ahead only for Burger to lead a host of defenders to halt the danger.

Wales were again dominating possession, but the Springboks defence always seemed up to the task, a prime example being the moment Byrne cut through on a superb angle and Halfpenny was then cut down before he could release Shane Williams.

Martyn Williams tries to hold back Jean de Villiers in Cardiff
Martyn Williams tries to hold back Jean de Villiers in Cardiff

Wales coach Warren Gatland saw his tactical substitution of Hook for Stephen Jones after 51 minutes backfire with the on-comer's first touch to be an intercept gift to De Villiers, who went over untouched for Pienaar to convert.

Hook made some amends in the 57th and 59th minutes, taking over the kicking duties from Halfpenny to punish another Burger tackle offence.

Having warned the Springboks about their actions at the scrum, replacement Jaque Fourie fell foul of Rolland within minutes of entering the fray to be sin-binned after 63 minutes.

The visitors began to tighten up in the wake of Fourie's exit and Wales continued to pile forward at every opportunity and a Tendai Mtawarira transgression allowed Hook to bring the home side back to within striking distance with his fourth penalty from four attempts, albeit with the help of an upright.

We knew it would be tough - De Villiers

A Peel knock-on, Matfield steal at a Welsh line-out throw and uncharacteristic dropped ball by Byrne in the dying minutes relieved the pressure on the visitors.

A knock-on at a scrum further frustrated Wales' hopes of taking South Africa's scalp. Wales had one last chance with a line-out deep in Springbok territory, but Smith stole yet another loose Welsh line-out and the chance was gone.

Wales: Lee Byrne (Ospreys); Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), Tom Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Gareth Cooper (Gloucester); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Adam Jones (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, capt), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues).

Replacements: James Hook (Ospreys) for S Jones (51), Dwayne Peel (Sale) for Cooper (51), Gough (Ospreys) for Evans (66).
Not Used: Hibbard, D. Jones, D. Jones, Andrew.

South Africa: Conrad Jantjes (Western Province); JP Pietersen (Sharks), Adrian Jacobs (Sharks), Jean de Villiers (Western Province), Bryan Habana (Blue Bulls); Ruan Pienaar (Sharks), Fourie du Preez (Blue Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), John Smit (Sharks, capt), Bakkies Botha (Blue Bulls), Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls), Schalk Burger (Western Province), Juan Smith (Free State Cheetahs), Pierre Spies (Blue Bulls).

Replacements: Frans Steyn (Sharks) for Jacobs (60), Jaque Fourie (Golden Lions) for de Villiers (61), Ricky Januarie (Western Province) for du Preez (61), Gurtho Steenkamp (Blue Bulls) for Mtawarira (76), Andries Bekker (Western Province) for Botha (41), Brian Mujati (Western Province) for Smith (68), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks) for Spies (50).

Sin Bin: Fourie (62).

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

Assistant referees: Alan Lewis and George Clancy (both Ireland).

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