Liam Williams Springboks’ power game looks like too much for Wales to handle

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Rugby World Cup semi-final: Wales v South Africa

Kick-off:9am Irish time, Sunday.Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama.How to follow:The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 8.30am.On TV:Live on RTÉ, Eir Sport and ITV.

Wales have almost slipped into the semi-finals under the radar and went into the weekend as the outsiders of the quartet to win the World Cup at 9/1. Yet they are the reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions, and have won their last four matches against the Springboks. They must be doing something right.

What’s more Warren Gatland’s side have won 12 competitive matches in a row, dating back to their 37-27 defeat by Ireland in February 2018. They have won 20 of their 23 matches since that day, their three losses being in warm-up matches against England and Ireland (twice), making their presence here probably more of a sore point for Irish players and supporters.

Wales are also in their second semi-final (in addition to a quarter-final) under Gatland, and that is all the more amazing when you consider their squad are comprised mostly of players who made negligible impact for their regions last season – albeit there’s nothing terribly new there.

As their somewhat fortuitous 20-19 quarter-final win over France demonstrated, they have an uncanny habit of just finding a way. France created three fine tries and many other opportunities. Wales hardly created anything, yet fed off French ill-discipline, notably Sebastien Vaahaamahina, who was suspended for six weeks for elbowing Aaron Wainwright in the jaw.

Wales took their kicks and scored two tries off turnovers, yet you always suspected they would squeeze through from the moment George North made his try-saving tackle on Gael Fickou and Romain Ntamack hit the post with the ensuing penalty with the last kick of the first half, one of two French kicks to rebound from an upright.

Perfunctory wins

Save for their performance against Australia in a belter of a game, Wales have not been especially inspired throughout, managing perfunctory wins over Georgia, Fiji and Uruguay, who gave them some problems.

The Springboks did do a physical number on 14-man Italy, and indulged themselves in some offloading, running rugby against Namibia and Canada. Yet in losing to the All Blacks and even in ending Japan’s dream run last weekend the Springboks backs have not crested a whole amount.

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