Wales secured their second victory of the Autumn internationals, and a valuable win over one of the Southern Hemisphere’s big guns, in an entertaining contest in from over 65,000 fans at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Warren Gatland’s side had a dream start, right wing Hallam Amos collecting a Dan Biggar cross-kick and feeding Scott Williams for a try within the first five minutes. Biggar was the creator of the second too, his chip setting up centre Hadleigh Parkes to go in under the posts just three minutes later and with just eight minutes on the clock and Wales were 14 points to nil ahead.
A Handre Pollard penalty appeared to settle South Africa into the game but Wales struck again soon after, a chargedown, gather and offload by the brilliant number eight Taulupe Faletau putting the debutant Parkes in under the posts for his second.
Wales were 21-3 ahead with the Principality Stadium atmosphere rocking, and weren’t to know at that point that they would score just three more points in the remaining 55 minutes.
South Africa’s battle back into contention began when Warrick Galent completed a stunning move reminiscent of Sean O’Brien’s wonder-try in the first Test of the New Zealand series.
Dillyn Leyds played the Liam Williams role, launching an audacious attack from deep inside his own half with a bold sidestep and after the Boks quickly covered the guts of 80 metres, Galent was on hand to apply the finish and signal that the contest was far from over.
South Africa were also unlucky to be denied a try earlier in the half, no angle proving conclusively that hooker Malcolm Marx had got the ball down.
Despite losing skipper Eben Etzebeth to an arm injury, the visitors began the second half much the stronger and Pollard eventually dived over after sustained pressure sapped the Welsh defence of energy.
Centre Jesse Kriel powered over soon after in much the same circumstances, strong running and good control of possession eventually breaking the Welsh resistance to put South Africa into a one point lead.
Wales struggled to get within striking distance of the Springbok line for much of the half but a rare foray forward gave Leigh Halfpenny a chance to edge his side ahead. The 2013 Man of the Series as a Lion in Australia and a dead-eyed kicker of the placed ball, he made no mistake from close range.
Neither side could gain control with Welsh edging the contest in open play but South Africa getting on top at scrum-time.
FULL TIME | WAL 24 – 22 RSA. Wales edge out a win to beat South Africa for a third time in a row at home. pic.twitter.com/9heBzePksX
— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) December 2, 2017
A couple of poorly timed errors by substitute out-half Elton Jantjies gave Wales vital relief in the final 10 minutes.
There was still time for late drama, a penalty giving South Africa field position and a chance to snatch victory at the last.
But amid breathless scenes at Principality Stadium a final choke tackle just after the 80th minute on Galent saw Wales claim a deserved 24-22 victory to finish their Autumn series.
A word must go as well to South Africa, who suffered their second one-point defeat of their November tour having lost by the same margin to France and made a significant contribution to an exciting contest.