|Venue: DHL Stadium, Cape Town Date: Saturday, July 16 Reset: 16:05 BST|
|Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio Wales Extra – available via BBC Sounds, 882 MW and BBC Sport Online, Radio Cymru, as well as live text and match coverage on the BBC Sport website|
So all eyes are now on Cape Town. Wales have somehow prepared themselves for a crucial series against world champions South Africa.
Few believed it would happen, but that was before the heated Battle of Bloemfontein and Gareth Anscombe’s ice-cold heroics.
This allowed Wayne Pivac’s team to create history by becoming the first Welsh team to beat the Springboks in South Africa. They are now aiming to become the first Welsh team to win the series.
After the first two Tests being played at altitude, both sides will return to sea level for the series finale in Cape Town.
Eleven previous Welsh teams have traveled to South Africa in search of victory and all have failed.
With Wales trailing 12-3 in the second half of a hard-fought game in the Free State and down to 14 men – Alan Wyn Jones receiving a yellow card that should never have been given – another defeat on South African soil appeared to be inevitable.
However, no one told Wales. Pivac’s side showed little in attack and only had a second-minute Dan Biggar penalty to show for their efforts, while Handre Pollard’s boot put the Springboks ahead by more than a score.
They had one chance – and that’s all they needed. One line drive, patient build up and an inspired long pass from Anscombe to Josh Adams who finished expertly.
Still, there remained the slight challenge of converting the touchline for Anscombe as he was booed on by more than 40,000 Springbok fans at the Bloemfontein Cauldron.
However, that was no problem for Wales’ replacement – and the result became part of history.
As has often been the case in battles between these two sides in recent seasons, defensive dominance has been key.
It was the first time the Springboks had failed to score in South Africa since 2016 when Wales’ resolute rearguard resistance prevailed.
“It’s not every day you can withstand them without trying,” Pivats said.
“Gethin Jenkins (defensive line coach) will be very pleased and the guys have worked hard on defense.”
At the heart of that effort was old workhorse Dan Lydiatt and new flanker Tommy Reffell, complemented by classy number eight Taulupe Faletau.
Pivac has been looking for a back-row combination since taking over and used 18 different starting threes before heading to South Africa.
With Josh Navidi adding energy from the bench, Wales may have just found a winning formula.
Renaissance man Lydiat, 34, rolled back the years with his signature chop technique, stopping the Springboks with tremulous strikes on the gain line. If you want one man in South Africa, it’s Lydiat. It is made for this tour.
Such a display is all the more remarkable as Lydiate has just returned to the international scene after a year out with a serious knee injury.
At the other end of the scale, 22-year-old Refel has been outstanding in his first two Test matches.
The Leicester winger was named man of the match in Bloemfontein thanks to some important assists.
An excuse for Pivac
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Pivac since taking over from Warren Gatland after the 2019 World Cup.
A poor start was followed by Six Nations success in 2021.
In March, he became the first Wales manager to suffer a home defeat against Italy as Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations with one win.
Pivac has now become the only Wales coach to inspire a win over the Springboks in South Africa.
It was one of the last frontiers for the conquest of Welsh rugby and Pivak led the expedition.
He insists it is not about one man, but captain Biggar praised his coach’s measured response after the anti-aircraft defeat in Italy.
“Credit to Wayne and the management for probably not overreacting at the end of the Six Nations,” Biggar said.
“You know we looked at the Six Nations, we definitely should have won in France, could have won in England and we were obviously disappointed with the way it ended.
“We stuck to our guns, our game plan and what we were trying to achieve.
“It shows that if you step up, roll up your sleeves and get a good group together, which we have, things can turn around.”
Forall the celebrations and plaudits, the fact that this win came against a South African side that made 14 changes to the starting line-up that beat Wales in Pretoria will not be forgotten.
Six new matches were scheduled and 19 changes were made to the 23-man squad per match.
It was a controversial decision, with cries that South Africa’s selection devalued the series and disrespected Wales, although the Springboks vehemently denied fielding a B team.
Head coach Jacques Ninaber defended his decision after the game, saying he wanted to give all 42 players in his squad playing time and decided to do so in the first two Tests.
In Cape Town, Nienaber could be expected to revert to the tried and trusted combinations that brought success at the 2019 World Cup and the series victory over the British and Irish Lions two years later.
In contrast, Wales made just one change to the starting line-up for Bloemfontein and had one new appearance on the bench, with Saracens’ Sam Wainwright making a debut he will never forget.
Wainwright, 24, was a substitute due to injuries to Thomas Francis, Leon Brown and Samson Lee and came on for the injured Dylan Lewis.
What an impact he had when he converted a penalty in his first scrimmage which laid the platform for Wales’ decisive try.
Wainwright is likely to make his first Test start in Cape Town after Lewis left the Toyota Stadium with his arm in a sling.
It would be a tough test given Wainwright is yet to start a match for Saracens in the Premier League or European competition, with Scarlets rookie Harry O’Connor expected to be named as a replacement.
Captain Biggar and Alex Cuthbert are the other injury doubts for Pivak, although their replacements Anscombe and Adams didn’t do too badly in Bloemfontein.
North vs. South
Next weekend will witness an exciting battle of the rugby hemisphere after European teams dominated the second weekends of the respective three-match series.
Ireland set the tone with their first win against the All Blacks in New Zealand before England bounced back against Australia in Brisbane.
After beating Wales, Scotland completed Saturday’s Northern Hemisphere rugby union success over southern rivals with a win over Argentina.
So, the series is tied at 1-1 with four going into the final weekend.
“It shows there’s not a lot between the teams,” Biggar said.
“It’s exciting to look forward to the next 12 months because there’s no team that stands out at the World Cup because New Zealand have been ahead of everyone in the last couple of years.
“It’s a very level playing field and anybody can beat anybody.”
Biggar will be hoping Wales beat South Africa next Saturday in Cape Town. That’s all that matters for Wales at the moment.