By William Hill
Last Updated: 6th November 2019
Sunday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final has South Africa facing off against Wales in a titanic clash between two powerhouse nations.
Wales are undefeated in this tournament, surviving thrilling matches against Australia and France, while South Africa have rebounded from an early loss to New Zealand by dominating the rest of their group and powering past Japan in the quarter-finals.
We preview the second semi-final from this weekend’s Rugby World Cup fixtures.
Welsh dragon roars
Under Warren Gatland, Wales have developed a reputation for being difficult to beat, and not going down without a fight. That was very evident in last weekend’s match against France, where they entered the final quarter trailing by more than a score. A moment of madness from Sebastien Vahaamahina and a late Ross Moriarty try saw them live to fight another day, and they head into Sunday’s game brimming with confidence.
The great unknown is how much the France victory took out of the side, and if Jonathan Davies is fit enough to play a meaningful role. Wales are currently 5/2 to beat South Africa.
The loss of full-back Liam Williams through injury is a tough pill to swallow given he’s a key component of the Welsh attack. It must be a tough one to take for Williams personally as the 28-year-old has enjoyed a stunning 2019, winning the European Rugby Champions Cup and English Premiership with Saracens and he’ll be praying his nation can get through as he seeks a historic hat-trick.
Leigh Halfpenny is a quality replacement, though, and Gatland will be hoping he shows the form that saw him previously selected for the Lions.
After a tough loss to New Zealand in their first match of the tournament, the Boks have charged through everybody they have faced, balancing a hard-nosed forward pack with an electric backline. The injured Cheslin Kolbe will be a huge loss, but Sbu Nkosi is an excellent replacement, and so far nobody has been able to stop Damian de Allende rampaging through the midfield.
The true strength of the South African side lies in their pack, which is nothing new, but this crop are very special. With experience, depth and ability in abundance, beating the full complement of starting eight and subs is a difficult task, and Wales will struggle to contain the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi for 80 minutes.
Perhaps surprisingly, given they are ranked lower than their Welsh opponents in the world rankings, South Africa are 4/11 to reach the final, with the handicap set at eight points.
Back the Boks to spring into life in second half
It’s hard to see past the Boks here. They haven’t really got out of third gear yet, but they showed glimpses against New Zealand and Japan, and the power they have at their disposal could see them bulldoze the Welsh.
The 4/11 doesn’t look the worst bet for short-priced punters, but the value lies in South Africa winning by 13+, which can be backed at 8/5. The game may be close going into the final period, but the sheer power of the Boks pack will unlock spaces for Handre Pollard and Co. to exploit ruthlessly.