The match produced typical knock-out rugby as defences were unyielding for most of the way and at the end the injury-ravaged Wales, Pool A runners-up, made more than 100 tackles than the Boks, the Pool B winners.
Warren Gatland’s Welsh Dragons were full of running straight after the kick-off and the Boks were forced to settle for a defensive role. The Welsh stretched the opposition defence by changing the angles of attack and the ploy might have paid early dividends but a potential scoring pass went astray out wide in the third minute.
Once the Boks managed to release the pressure with a turnover inside their 22m area they ran the ball up strongly without much variation and Wales fronted up physically at the collisions.
Over the next 15 minutes or so neither side was able to impose themselves on the match, playing patterns were fairly predictable and defences held out.
However, both sides incurred the wrath of English referee Wayne Barnes for a succession of breakdown infringements which the Boks converted to a 9-3 scoreline after 16 minutes’ play. Bok Handré Pollard goaled three angled kicks from about 40 metres out and his opposite number Dan Biggar goaled once. With his second strike, Pollard passed the 50-point match at the 2015 RWC.
Biggar produced a moment of magic in the 18th minute when he gathered his own up-and-under and then off-loaded superbly to scrum-half Gareth Davies who ran through a near absent central Bok defence. Biggar’s conversion gave Wales the lead for the first time in the match (10-9).
With Wales looking impenetrable on defence, Bok scrum-half Du Preez twice kicked crossfield for his wing JP Petersen but each time he was not able to gather on the bounce.
Moments later Pollard regained the lead with his fourth penalty after Wales were blown up for obstruction when was prevented from challenging for an upfield kick (12-10).
By this time, both sides were often leaking turnovers at the breakdowns and, as a result, a fair amount of momentum was lost on attacks.
On the stroke of halftime, Biggar again intervened with telling effect when he snapped over a drop goal to put Wales ahead 13-12.
In the opening six minutes of second-half play, Wales increased their lead through another Biggar penalty which took the scoreline out to 16-12.
There was a fine response by the Boks who managed to take play to within five metres of the try line but Wales pulled off a remarkable turnover just a whisker from the whitewash.
Pollard atoned for his early second-half penalty miss with a 49th-minute drop-goal which placed the Boks within one point of the Welsh total (16-15).
As the match approached the hour mark, the Boks looked to be on the ascendency but their attacking sorties lacked composure and they were not able to capitalise on their play deep inside the opposition half.
The Bok pressure did earn them a 61st-minute penalty but their short-lived 18-16 lead was erased two minutes later by a Biggar penalty as the Welsh restored their one-point lead at 19-18 in the face of a brave defensive performance.
In the 74th minute, the Welsh scrum, which has creaked and groaned at times during this RWC, was under pressure and eighth man Duane Vermeulen picked at the base and broke blindside before squirting out a back to Bok scrum-half Fourie du Preez who was over in a flash at the corner. The conversion failed but with time running out the Boks sensed victory was at hand with their 23-19 lead.
Scorers: South Africa 23 (12): Try: Fourie du Preez. Penalties: Handré Pollard (5) Drop-goal: Pollard. Wales 19 (13): Try: Gareth Davies. Conversion: Dan Biggar. Penalties: Biggar (3). Drop-goal: Biggar. – African News Agency (ANA)