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Workhorse Wales left heartbroken by hardy Boks

The Springboks will be looking to prove they can perform for 80 minutes. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Roar Guru
18th October, 2015
3

“The nearly men of world rugby.” That was a text a Welsh friend sent in the aftermath of South Africa’s 23-19 quarter-final victory. The Springboks through to the semis, Wales out.

What a heartbreaker.

The men in red threw everything at the Boks in a frenetic, fast-paced game. The Welsh made a staggering 189 tackles to South Africa’s 101, a ridiculous stat.

But it was the fact they gave away 12 penalties, and the errors in their attacking game, that eventually was mostly telling.

Like last weekend against the Wallabies, when Australia was reduced to 13 men, Wales couldn’t break through.

They kicked the ball away aimlessly too much and butchered overlaps when presented. There was not enough variation, enough invention away from their power game to trouble a resolute Bok defence.

That’s not to say the Welsh weren’t heroic, weren’t throwing everything into this one.

In some ways it was a miracle they got this far, considering the injuries they suffered before the tournament and then during it as well. How would they have gone with a fit Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb? We’ll never know.

To come from behind and beat England, and take Australia to the wall, takes some doing. Getting out of the group of death is an achievement.

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They were within a whisker of beating the Boks as well, or repeating their 2011 finish. But as journalist Georgina Robinson tweeted: “Wales. Always. The Bridesmaid.”

You’ve got to feel sorry for the Welsh. Like in New Zealand four years ago, they are out in gutting circumstances. A point in front with seven minutes left, but unable to hold on.

However, you also have to respect South Africa. They were more clinical, took their opportunities when presented and got the job done. With so much possession in the second half they had to.

They’ve recovered from their embarrassing first-up defeat to Japan, bounced back and are building steam.

The match-winning try was a piece of a magic from their number 8. Duane Vermeulen picked up the ball from the back of the scrum, drew two defenders and popped a wonderful ball on to Fourie du Preez to score. Game over.

A close war like this needed something special to split these two evenly-matched teams and that was it. What a try.

It will be no consolation to the Welsh, who head home after losing by the smallest of margins in the past two matches.

‘Warrenball’ has brought them great success, Six Nations crowns and several famous scalps. But maybe it is time for a change, for reinvention, for slight tinkering to help to finally remove that southern hemisphere hoodoo.

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Follow John Davidson on Twitter @johnnyddavidson