DYLAN JACK looks at where the World Cup semi-final between the Springboks and Wales in Yokohama on Sunday was won and lost.
As should have been expected, the game was played as a tactical chess match between the two teams, with neither side willing to take any risks with ball in hand.
Both the Springboks and Wales stuck to the respective gameplans that had got them that far in the competition. Neither side is prolific when it comes to running the ball from their own half, so both teams looked to get into opposition territory in the quickest way possible. This was illustrated by the Boks’ kicking 17 times from their own half.
A total of 81 kicks from hand were made in the match, with the Springboks kicking the ball 41 times. The Boks did get slightly more metres from their kicks, with 931 compared to Wales’ 872. That, combined with the Boks’ defensive organisation, possibly made the difference when it came to the territorial battle.
Plenty has been made of Rassie Erasmus’ decision to employ a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the Springboks’ bench. As it did in the quarter-final against Japan, the decision paid off against Wales, with the ‘bomb squad’ making a positive contribution when they came on to the field.
In particular, the Boks’ replacement front row was excellent. Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch played very well from the bench. Koch and Kitshoff made 18 tackles between them, without missing a single attempt, while Marx made 15m in the carry.
Veteran flank Francois Louw again showed why he is so valued. For the umpteenth time he came off the bench and won a crucial breakdown penalty with the game still in the balance.
Once again, the Bok defence came to the fore when they needed it most. It was for this reason that Wales were only able to convert eight per cent of their opportunities into points despite showing more of a variation on attack than their opponents.
Pieter-Steph du Toit ended the game as the top tackler, completing 17 of his 19 attempts. He was closely followed by Lood de Jager, who completed all 13 of his tackles.
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images