Wales made history as they recorded a stunning 13-12 second-Test victory over South Africa in Bloemfontein.
t was Wales’ first win against the Springboks on South African soil, ending 58 years of hurt and arriving at the 12th attempt.
After suffering an agonising three-point defeat in last weekend’s series opener, Wayne Pivac’s team made no mistake at the second time of asking and set up a Cape Town decider next Saturday.
Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber’s decision to make 14 changes backfired – he rested World Cup winners like Siya Kolisi, Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe – as Wales triumphed through Josh Adams’ 78th-minute try that Gareth Anscombe converted from the touchline.
Anscombe and Wales captain Dan Biggar kicked earlier penalties, while Handre Pollard booted four penalties for the Springboks.
Alun Wyn Jones was yellow-carded for the second successive game – although it appeared a harsh call for hands in the ruck – and it looked like it could be a frustrating defeat for Wales, yet they finished in style as Anscombe held his nerve.
Wales, who saw Biggar and wing Alex Cuthbert go off injured, had lost 11 successive Tests in South Africa, stretching back to 1964.
But just over three months after losing at home to Italy, they stunned the world champions.
The game lacked sparkle and attacking invention – unlike last weekend’s 32-29 thriller in Pretoria – yet Wales will not care a jot.
Wing Alex Cuthbert returned to Wales’ starting line-up as a solitary change from the first Test, replacing Adams, while uncapped Saracens prop Sam Wainwright was on the bench.
Nienaber retained only lock Eben Etzebeth, but returning star names such as Pollard and former World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit were notable arrivals in the three-match series.
South Africa infringed from the kick-off, with flanker Du Toit offending, and Biggar kicked Wales into a 3-0 lead.
The Springboks soon found momentum, though, with Test debutants Kurt-Lee Arendse and number eight Evan Roos threatening Wales’ line before Pollard booted an equalising penalty.
Biggar then missed a long-range penalty, and a cagey opening saw both sides resembling sparring boxers.
Wales suffered an injury blow when Cuthbert made a 17th-minute exit, and Adams – top try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup – took over from him.
Roos continued to be a handful for Wales’ defence, and South Africa’s forwards established a degree of momentum that meant the tourists spent a long spell inside their own 22.
But Wales’ defensive organisation, aligned to superb work at the breakdown from flanker Tommy Reffell, meant South Africa could find no way through and it remained all square.
Wales had weathered a storm, with Leicester forward Reffell’s towering work being matched by the efforts of his back-row colleagues Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau.
Both teams had half-chances, but defences dominated to such an extent that errors were forced, with Springboks and Harlequins centre Andre Esterhuizen dropping a straightforward midfield pass.
An attritional first half ended with no addition to the early scoring, and Wales still very much in the hunt as they targeted a series-levelling victory.
Pivac sent on scrum-half Tomos Williams instead of Kieran Hardy for the second period, while Nienaber introduced hooker Malcolm Marx and prop Vincent Koch.
Cuthbert, meanwhile, had his arm in a sling on the sidelines, while Biggar took a hefty blow on his shoulder before continuing after treatment.
Pollard kicked South Africa into the lead with a 43rd-minute penalty, before Biggar missed a comfortable chance for a marksman of his quality.
Biggar left the action and was replaced by Anscombe after 52 minutes, while Pollard completed his penalty hat-trick for a 9-3 advantage.
Wales then saw Jones sin-binned, but it was a tough decision by referee Angus Gardner and his officiating team.
Jones protested his innocence before leaving the field, and a fourth Pollard penalty put South Africa nine points clear, but substitutes Adams and Anscombe had the final dramatic say and the Springboks were silenced.
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