Replacement flyhalf Gareth Anscombe kicked a late conversion from the touchline as Wales claimed their first ever away victory in South Africa with an error-strewn 13-12 success over a much-changed Springboks at the Free State Stadium on Saturday.
Wing Josh Adams crossed for the only try of the game with two minutes left on the clock, leaving Anscombe with a difficult conversion to win the game, but he landed the ball through the centre of the posts to make history for Wayne Pivac’s side.
Stand-in captain Handre Pollard kicked four penalties for a Boks side that had 14 changes in their starting XV from the first test win and never found any fluency in a game where they mostly dominated territory until the final 10 minutes.
The third and deciding test in the series will be played in Cape Town next Saturday.
The victory will be sweet for the tourists as they buried their South African hoodoo at a ground known as The Graveyard, winning away to the Boks for the first time at the 12th attempt.
“It was a huge squad effort, the lads who came off the bench were incredible,” Wales captain Dan Biggar said at the post-match presentation.
“We felt we were in pretty good nick last week and were unlucky not to get the job done, so I’m over the moon.
“Being the first Welsh team to win on South African soil makes me really proud. It would have been easy for us to fold in the first half and concede a try or two, but we managed to stick in and rolled our sleeves up.”
The opening period was a battle of the box kicks as South Africa mostly camped in the visitors’ half but lacked accuracy to turn their territorial dominance into points as the teams went into the break locked at 3-3.
The Boks were particularly wasteful with set-piece chances in the Welsh 22, while the visitors’ flank Tommy Reffell, in only his second test, was superb at the breakdown and won a number of steals.
The Boks pulled away on the scoreboard in the opening 15 minutes of the second half as the tourists continually infringed at the breakdown.
Replacement lock Alun Wyn Jones received a yellow card for the second test in a row, though he can feel aggrieved as he was wrongly adjudged to have used his hands in the ruck.
The Boks led 12-3 going towards the hour mark but Wales were able to up the tempo of the game and when they finally found some fluidity and put a few phases together, Adams crossed for the winning try in the corner.
“Discipline cost us and not converting those chances in the first half was crucial,” Pollard said. “It is the smallest of margins, but you have to be on it for 80 minutes.
“If you let up for just a couple of phases against a side like Wales, they will get points. There are lots of lessons to be learnt.”