Wales 18-23 South Africa: Malcolm Marx scores only try in late Boks victory at Principality Stadium
South Africa claim victory in their first autumn Test of 2021 as a try from Malcolm Marx with seven minutes left, in addition to four Handre Pollard penalties, a Frans Steyn long-range effort and a final Elton Jantjies penalty secured a 23-18 win over Wales in rain-sodden conditions.
By Michael Cantillon at Principality Stadium
Last Updated: 07/11/21 2:34am
A crucial late Malcolm Marx try saw the Springboks register a first victory in Cardiff for eight years, as the visitors pinched a 23-18 win over Wales at a sopping-wet Principality Stadium.
The Springboks had not won in the Welsh capital since 2013, losing in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018, but four Handre Pollard penalties, a long-range Frans Steyn effort, a final Elton Jantjies penalty, and Marx's try sealed a late success.
The Test looked to be going Wales' way for the majority as Dan Biggar kicked six penalties on his return to keep the hosts in the lead time and again in an intense contest.
Despite a clear scrum and maul dominance throughout, the Boks failed for so long to take advantage of their set-piece superiority and produced a performance littered with indiscipline themselves, particularly at the breakdown.
Wing Makazole Mapimpi had a try ruled out with 12 minutes remaining for offside, but, that aside, clear chances were scarce for the visitors until Marx and the Boks' pack came up with a pivotal intervention.
A hectic start to the Test saw fearsome contests at the ruck and in the air, with Wales the first to enter their opponents' 22 after Kwagga Smith was pinged for offside. Biggar and co turned down a potential shot to kick to touch, but the move was ended when Smith produced a phenomenal turnover in his own 22 to win the ball back.
A second opportunity soon followed in the ninth minute for the hosts, when Louis Rees-Zammit was almost in for a sensational try but was stopped by superb cover defence by Siya Kolisi and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, after the Welsh wing had originally stepped inside and sprinted past Mapimpi.
Regardless, play was called back for South Africa indiscretions at the breakdown by Bongi Mbonambi and Duane Vermeulen - both not supporting body weight at the breakdown - and Biggar tapped over from the tee for a 3-0 lead.
The Springbok response was near instantaneous, as from the restart possession was recovered and Wales back-row Ellis Jenkins was caught offside, allowing Pollard to level things.
In a role reversal of the previous scoring sequence, Wales then recovered the ball from the restart and immediately forced a penalty near the opposition 22, which saw Biggar bisect the uprights again for a third score in three minutes.
Rees-Zammit again had a chance on penalty advantage just prior, but a Biggar cross-field kick slipped between his hands near the corner flag.
Once more the Boks did not wait long to respond, as the first scrum of the Test saw the visitors romp forward for a penalty, after which the Wales defensive line came up offside. Pollard struck the straightforward penalty over to level matters at 6-6.
The next key passage of the Test came drenched in Springbok DNA as they forced two maul penalties, kicking to the corner either side of them, and battered at a stretched Wales defence deep in the 22, with the onslaught only ended when Jenkins forced an outstanding breakdown penalty.
In the 27th minute, Biggar kicked Wales back into the lead when the Springboks were placed on a team warning for breakdown penalties after a fourth concession around their 22 - centre Damian de Allende failing to release after the tackle.
Jantjies' second poor box-kick in succession then piled more pressure on the Boks, and when three further penalties followed in the same attacking sequence, prop Ox Nche was sent to the sin-bin for repeated team infringements.
Biggar kicked over the resultant penalty to increase the Wales lead, but the Test was soon 14 vs 14 as Wales prop Rhys Carre was yellow carded after the home side's fourth penalty at the maul.
With the final kick of the half, Pollard then narrowed the gap to 12-9 with a curling strike on the angle after Boks skipper Kolisi jackalled to win a breakdown decision.
No further points were added in Nche and Carre's respective time off the pitch, but South Africa came close to the opening try when Lukhanyo Am broke down the left and they then attacked through 14 phases within the Wales 22.
Jenkins brilliantly stripped possession back to quell the pressure, before Taine Basham repeated the trick at the ruck in the Boks' half moments later for Biggar to strike over from distance for 15-9.
Replacement Steyn added three more points to the South Africa total in the 55th minute, when he struck over impressively from five metres inside his own half, before Pollard levelled the match via the boot five minutes later to set up a fascinating final quarter.
Biggar landed his sixth penalty of the game to edge Wales in front with 15 minutes left after yet another South Africa breakdown transgression, and after a rogue Welsh fan on the pitch looked to disrupt a Wales attack down the left.
The Springboks then thought they had a critical try in the 68th minute when Mapimpi sprinted in untouched after a fortunate bounce saw lock Eben Etzebeth run into clear space with the ball. On review with the TMO, referee Paul Williams ruled out the score, though, as offside South Africa players had not retreated following the kick.
With seven minutes remaining, the Springboks finally made full use of their devastating rolling maul when a penalty kick to touch brought about a try for replacement Marx and a maiden lead in the Test - though Elton Jantjies missed the conversion to leave the advantage a slender two-point one.
Wales failed to threaten in the South Africa half in the time remaining, however, as their final attack from deep and a consequent Steven Kitshoff breakdown success actually allowed replacement Elton Jantjies to have the final say.