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After a quarter-final that was decided by the swing of an elbow, Wales will know they cannot rely on such turns of fortune in Sunday’s showdown with South Africa.
There will be no swirling unpredictability from the Springboks, as there was with the French. From the first whistle to the last, it’s going to be a bruising bombardment on the minds and bodies of Warren Gatland’s men. If the Welsh give an inch, they will be duly punished. There can be no lulls in concentration or intensity. Not against South Africa.
Regardless of whether or not Wales deserve their semi-final berth, having been taken to the very edge by Jacques Brunel’s side last weekend, they’ve shown in Japan what they’re capable of.
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The win over Australia was by no means a picture of perfection but reaffirmed the granite-like resolve and resilience of the Welsh – qualities needed to cope with the searing heat and pressure of a Rugby World Cup semi-final.
That victory, in holding out against the Wallabies’ second-half fightback, was underpinned by the industrial work rate of the forwards at the breakdown and a heroic defensive display. It was gutsy, lung-bursting, utterly absorbing.
But Wales cannot afford to get sucked into a similar arm wrestle against the South Africans, whose fearsome physicality was put to devastating use against the Japanese in a war of attrition that eventually left the hosts battered and broken.
And Gatland will know that Sunday’s opponents make for a very different entity to the Wallabies. There will be none of the inconsistency or errors that saw Australia gift multiple points to the Welsh in their encounter last month.
South Africa are a far more settled, streamlined side. In Handre Pollard they have a unwavering source of composure and poise – a stark contrast to the fly-half troubles of the Aussies. Pollard’s boot played a crucial role in grinding down
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