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The key questions after Wales’ World Cup semi-final defeat to South Africa

The main questions that emerged from Wales’ World Cup semi-final defeat against South Africa.

Wales came up short in the semi-final (Ashley Western/PA)
Wales came up short in the semi-final (Ashley Western/PA)

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent, Yokohama

South Africa booked a World Cup final appointment with England in Yokohama after beating semi-final opponents Wales 19-16.

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Here, the PA news agency looks at the questions and answers around South Africa’s triumph.

So what happened?

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Handre Pollard’s kicking proved decisive (Ashley Western/PA)

Many observers had predicted a kicking-fest with both packs slugging it out for supremacy. And that was pretty much how it transpired in a game that lacked quality attacking moments and was often undermined by errors. Ultimately, Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard’s late penalty saw his team home, winning a game that will not live long in the memory.

Did Wales let it slip?

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Wales were edged out by South Africa (David Davies/PA)

Not really. It was nip and tuck throughout the game, but as in their quarter-final victory over France, there were times when they appeared to be searching for ways of breaking down the opposition. They dug deep, as has become a Wales trademark under head coach Warren Gatland, but it was not enough.

Can South Africa beat England in the final?

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England will be favourites after their semi-final demolition of New Zealand (Adam Davy/PA)

Not on the semi-final evidence. England were breathtakingly brilliant in dismantling world champions New Zealand on Saturday, and if they reproduce anything like that form, then it is hard to imagine South Africa going close. England will deservedly be favourites but South Africa are a tough side to beat and are yet to really fire in attack at the World Cup.

Where was the game won?

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Damian de Allende scored South Africa’s only try (Ashley Western/PA)

Basically, Pollard’s accurate goalkicking and the attacking edge provided by try-scoring Springboks centre Damian de Allende. It was a game of fine margins with incredibly high stakes and the calmest, most composed players made a telling difference.

What will Wales take from the 2019 World Cup?

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Wayne Pivac takes over after the World Cup (David Davies/PA)

Wayne Pivac takes over the coaching reins next month and there is a great deal to be optimistic about. Wales possess an outstanding squad and there are likely to be few – if any – post-tournament retirements. They are certainly good enough to successfully defend the Six Nations title next year.

So what happens now?

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Warren Gatland’s final game in charge will be against New Zealand (David Davies/PA)

Wales face New Zealand – a nation they have not beaten for 66 years – in next Friday’s third and fourth place play-off, but it is likely to be a tough occasion for both teams following their painful semi-final exits. It will also be the final Tests of their long coaching reigns for Gatland and his New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen.

PA

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