RWC 2019 Semi-Final: South Africa vs Wales
Venue: International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama
Date: Sunday, October 27, 2019
South Africa have recovered well after their opening pool match defeat at the hands of New Zealand and look like a team that could go all the way in Japan. The Boks dominated for large periods in their 23-13 defeat, and they seem to have learned from that experience to go from strength to strength in the tournament.
Pool stage wins over Canada, Namibia, and Italy were to be expected, but it was their 26-3 semi-final win over hosts Japan that was the most impressive result of their tournament to date. With literally everyone outside South Africa cheering for a Japanese win, the Springboks played the type of physical and aggressive rugby that has been their hallmark over the years to stifle Japan and win 26-3. It was a scoreline that could have easily been more emphatic if not for some bombed tries, and it gives the Springboks a great platform for this semi-final.
Wales are perhaps the team most lucky to still be in the tournament at this stage. Their pool play work was exemplary, with the Welsh picking up four wins out of four – including one over Australia – to top their pool. This left them facing a quarter-final with the always enigmatic French.
France had their quarter-final matchup won until an absolute moment of madness from lock Sebastien Vahaamahina saw the 28-year-old sent from the field in disgrace in the 49th minute. The score was 19-10 at the time, with Wales scoring 10 unanswered points after Vahaamahina’s dismissal – the final try coming with just six minutes to play – to beat their Six Nations’ rival. They will have to be better here to trouble the Boks.
The big injury worry for South Africa is over electric winger Cheslin Kolbe. Kolbe was well marshaled by Japan – a team that play the game at a frightening pace that allows them to handle speedy wingers – but he is expected to be a big threat against the Welsh. Kolbe left the field late on in the game against Japan and the worry if that he has aggravated the ankle issue that saw him miss the Boks game against Canada.
The Welsh injury issues are in the centres with coach Warren Gatland waiting on the health of both his starting 12 and 13. Hadleigh Parkes seems to have been hit more this World Cup than any other player, so it is perhaps not surprising to note that he is dealing with a number of knocks to the body. The bigger concern is Jonathan Davies, a player who missed the quarter-final win over France and whose quality in midfield is a huge part of what makes Wales tick. If Owen Watkin has to play instead – as he did against France – then that is a massive blow to Wales’ chances of winning.
Expect a brutal rugby union match here. The Springboks are the only team in this tournament that have done most of their work off of the scrum-half, with big ball carriers like Malcolm Marx and Damian de Allende getting through mountains of work off of Faf de Klerk. It was a tactic that worked well against Japan, but Wales – even without Josh Navidi – will back themselves in terms of physicality and endurance against anyone in the world.
South Africa knocked Wales out of the 2015 World Cup and Gatland’s side are itching for revenge as he nears the end of his time in the country. Missed tackles are going to matter to a high degree in this one and whoever controls the breakdown – and who kicks better – will win on the day. It is going to be a tight contest, so taking Wales +8.0 at 0.90 with BetXchange feels like a better bet than picking either side straight up to win.