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Rivalries Revisited: Wales v South Africa

Rivalries Revisited: Wales v South Africa

Rivalries Revisited: Wales v South Africa

South Africa and Wales will go head-to-head in the latest edition of their classic rivalry during the 2023 Summer Nations Series. 

Just over a year on from their last meeting, a 30–14 Springbok win in Cape Town, the two sides will lock horns again as they put the finishing touches on their 2023 Rugby World Cup preparation. 

The Summer Nations Series offers five rounds of gripping games featuring some of the strongest sides in the world, and the 2019 World Cup winners will get their campaign underway in Round 3 at Principality Stadium. 

The fixture has 117 years of history behind it and has given some of the sport’s greatest-ever players a platform to strut their stuff. 

So, with the start of the 2023 Summer Nations Series now just days away, let’s have a look back at some of the definitive encounters between Wales and South Africa. 

Wales win in South Africa for the first time 

Wales made history in Bloemfontein as they recorded their first-ever win over the Springboks on South African soil in July of last year. 

Having fallen to a heartbreaking 32-29 defeat in the first Test in Pretoria, Wales fans could have been forgiven for thinking they had let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. 

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Damian Willemse’s penalty was the difference that day, but Wales had their revenge as they ended over 100 years of hurt with a 13-12 triumph at Free State Stadium a week later.  

Handre Pollard had kicked his side into a 12-6 lead with three minutes left to play, but Josh Adams scored the game’s only try before Gareth Anscombe’s world-class touchline conversion gave Wayne Pivac’s team the narrowest of leads in the closing stages. 

The Springboks battled their way back into the 22, but Wales held firm to wrap up a morale-boosting victory.

Although they ultimately lost the series in Cape Town, the 2022 tour will always be remembered for that glorious day in Bloemfontein.

South Africa edge World Cup semi-final

Wales reached their third World Cup semi-final in Japan four years ago and had hopes of ending Warren Gatland’s first reign in charge on a high.  

They recorded four wins from four in the pool stages, and there was the added incentive of a mouth-watering final against old rivals England after they beat New Zealand a day before. 

If they needed any more motivation heading into the match, Gatland’s side had won the last four meetings between the two teams, their longest-ever winning run against the Springboks. 

However, it was not to be. 

South Africa were 9-6 up at the break and took a 16-9 lead when Damian de Allende crossed the whitewash, before Wales were back on level terms thanks to Adams’ try. 

With four minutes left to play, Pollard kicked his fourth penalty of the match to book South Africa’s place in the 2019 World Cup final. 

Wales bring Springbok dominance to an end

Wales may have fallen to defeat at the 2019 World Cup, but it was a very different story five years earlier. 

The Springboks were on a run of 16 consecutive wins ahead of their visit to Principality Stadium in the 2014 Autumn Internationals. 

Despite their disappointing record against their southern hemisphere rivals, Wales showed heart and determination to secure their second win over the Springboks. 

Leigh Halfpenny put his name in Welsh folklore by kicking four penalties in the 12-6 win, helping to show what could be achieved under Gatland.

Springboks seal a series win in dramatic fashion 

While that match made it onto this list for its historical significance, another encounter from 2014 has made it on for the drama and quality on show.

Wales’ 2014 tour of South Africa ended in a 2-0 defeat for Gatland’s side, but they came close to a first-ever win on South African soil in Nelspruit. 

Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert gave Wales the lead in the first half, but a penalty try and a Cornal Hendricks score got the hosts back into the game. 

Ken Owens’ finish put Wales back in the driving seat but Willie Le Roux scored before a 77th-minute penalty try handed the Springboks the win.  

Wales record an historic win

Wales’ first game at Principality Stadium was one to remember as they beat South Africa for the first time ever in June 1999.

The ground was only half-built at the time, with only 27,000 fans in attendance to watch the 29-19 victory over the defending world champions, but they made their voices heard on a historic day for Welsh rugby. 

Up until that point, Wales had played 12 and lost 12 against the Springboks, but as soon as Neil Jenkins kicked the first points of the Principality Stadium era, it became clear that something special was about to happen. 

Mark Taylor gave his side a 19-6 advantage after scoring the first try at the new stadium before Gareth Thomas scored a second after the break. 

The hosts held on as Jenkins’ boot built an unassailable lead, meaning Wales got a new era off to a perfect start. 


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