Captains Fourie du Preez scores winning try as South Africa narrowly overcome Wales
The Springboks will now play France or All Blacks in semi-finals
Handre Pollard kicked 18 points, made up of five penalties and a drop-goal
Gareth Davies touched down for the Welsh in the first half
Dan Biggar completed their scoring with 14 points, made up of a conversion, drop-goal and three penalties
The tightest of games was decided in the final five minutes, as South Africa captain Fourie du Preez scored the crucial try to send the Springboks through to their fourth Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Twickenham witnessed a thrilling encounter with both sides continually trading the lead by just a one point margin.
Wales took the initiative on the stroke of half-time through a sublime Dan Biggar drop goal, after Gareth Davies had scored the only try of the first 40.
However the pendulum eventually swung the way of the Springboks, with Fourie du Preez pouncing with just five minutes to go to send the Rainbow Nation into ecstasy once more.
Wales spurned a glorious opportunity to score a try within the first three minutes. George North exploded down the wing to within just five metres of the South African 22. However with numbers over on the right when the ball was recycled, a loose pass was ballooned over Tyler Morgan’s head straight into touch.
Soon after it was the Springboks who took the lead after nine minutes through a Handre Pollard penalty, and he swiftly doubled it just three minutes later.
The indiscipline at the breakdown continued, and this time it was Wales’ turn to strike through the boot of Biggar.
Pollard immediately responded on 17 minutes to go three from three for the day and restore his side’s six-point lead at 9-3.
A brilliant chip and chase from Biggar carved open South Africa, and scrum-half Gareth Davies ran a great support line to collect and dive over for his fifth try of the tournament, drawing him level with Bryan Habana as leading try scorer in this tournament.
Biggar made it a seven-point score, but their lead barely lasted two minutes, with Pollard edging the Springboks back ahead from the tee.
The Welsh number 10 hit the upright with the clock ticking down before he then struck a sweetly hit drop goal to close out the half with the Red Dragons deservedly one point in front, 12-13.
Wales then breathed a huge sigh of relief as Pollard missed his first kick of the afternoon two minutes into the second half, keeping Warren Gatland’s men ahead by one.
Biggar then registered the first points of the half to extend Wales’ lead to four points from the tee.
South Africa threatened to score a try but took a page out of Wales book, with Pollard sweeping home a drop goal of his own on 52 minutes.
However once again he missed from the tee soon after, dragging his penalty wide, meaning South Africa continued to trail by one point.
The inevitable happened on 61 minutes, however, and he made no mistake as he curled a marvellous penalty just inside the far post.
The topsy-turvy nature of the game continued, with Biggar responding once again to put the home nation back ahead.
South Africa dealt a hammer blow on 75 minutes. A brilliant reverse offload to Duane Vermeulen allowed Captain du Preez to loop around the back and dive over into the corner to score the winning try.
What comes next for both
South Africa march on to their fourth World Cup semi-final and remain in contention to lift the Webb Ellis trophy for a record fourth time. The Springboks have lost just one of their two previous semi-finals in this competition, and they will now face either New Zealand or France a week today. Heyneke Meyer’s team have done unbelievably well to come back from a humiliating opening defeat against Japan and still go on reach the final four. Should they be crowned Champions on Halloween, it will be the first time that a team has done so having lost a Pool match.
Wales meanwhile leave the competition with their heads held high, as they came so close to reaching a second consecutive World Cup semi-final. Dan Biggar brilliantly engineered the first try of the game, and hardly put a foot wrong from the tee. Warren Gatland should receive huge plaudits for taking a heavily depleted squad as far as he did, and the side will now look ahead to the Six Nations in the new year.
Man of the Match
South Africa: Schalk Burger
The big back row was all over the park and made his presence felt in a hotly contested midfield tussle. Burger made 11 carries across the gainline, the most of any man on the pitch during the 80 minutes. The flanker also made two turnovers and provided two offloads to set the Springbok galloping toward the Welsh try line
South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Jesse Kriel (Jan Serfontein 68), 12. Damian De Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handré Pollard (Pat Lambie, 76), 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Schalk Burger, 6. Francois Louw (Willem Alberts 68), 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth (Pieter-Steph du Toit 68) , 3. Frans Malherbe (Jannie du Plessis 61), 2. Bismarck du Plessis (Adriaan Strauss 56), 1. Tendai Mtawarira (Trevor Nyakane 57)
Wales: 15 G Anscombe, 14 A Cuthbert, 13 T Morgan (J Hook 68), 12 J Roberts, 11 G North 10 D Biggar (R Priestland 73), 9 G Davies (Lloyd Williams 71), 1 G Jenkins (P James 56), 2 S Baldwin (K Owens 57), 3 S Lee (T Francis 56), 4 L Charteris, 5 A W Jones, 6 D Lydiate (J Tipuric 68), 7 S Warburton, 8 T Faletau