Thursday 20 June 2019

Du Preez's late try breaks Welsh hearts

South Africa 23 Wales 19

South Africa players celebrate their team's victory as the final whistle blows
South Africa players celebrate their team's victory as the final whistle blows
South Africa's Handre Pollard is tackled hard by Dan Biggar
Dan Biggar of Wales is tackled by Willie Le Roux
Lodewyk De Jager of South Africa is hauled down by Luke Charteris

Andrew Baldock

South Africa captain Fourie du Preez broke Welsh hearts by scoring a try five minutes from time to book the Springboks a World Cup semi-final place at Twickenham.

Wales led by a point, courtesy of scrum-half Gareth Davies' first-half touchdown, three penalties, a drop-goal and conversion from Dan Biggar, but Du Preez struck when he sprinted clear from a close-range scrum.

It was rough justice on Wales, who were World Cup semi-finalists in New Zealand four years ago, after they gave the two-times World champions as good as they got for almost all of an unforgettable last-eight clash.

Wales dominated for long periods, and it looked as though they might stay alive despite a crippling injury list that saw them lose six of their original World Cup squad, but they were undone by Du Preez's try, plus five penalties and a drop-goal from Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard.

Several Wales players were strewn across the pitch at the final whistle, emotionally and physically spent, yet they will return home today with heads held high, knowing they could not have given any more.

Coach Warren Gatland felt Wales "just weren't good enough to win".

"It's tough, the boys gave it everything and we just weren't good enough to hang on in the last few minutes. I don't want to make any excuses (about Wales' injury list). At the end of the day South Africa won the game and we weren't good enough to win.

"At the end of the day South Africa did what South Africa do. They hung in there right until the end. They got one chance and they took it and that was the result."

Springboks captain Du Preez couldn't contain his delight after going over to put South Africa in front after trailing for the majority of the second half.

"I must say it was an awesome feeling in a tight game," he said. "I was just delighted that we could pull it through. It was a tough game and they came on to us all game. We just kept pushing, kept pushing."

Wales will turn attention to the RBS Six Nations campaign and hope the likes of Rhys Webb, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies can come back into the fold after injury.

"There's a number of players that will come back in the next four to six months," said Gatland. "We've got the Six Nations to look forward to now and then a tour of New Zealand next year."

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