Rugby World Cup 2019 semi-final: Wales v South Africa

'Keep writing us off, we love it!' - Wales coach Warren Gatland
2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final: Wales v South Africa
Venue: International Stadium, Yokohama Date: Sun, 27 Oct Kick-off: 09:00 GMT
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

Wales stand on the brink of history as they prepare to face South Africa in Yokohama on Sunday, bidding to reach their first World Cup final with old rivals England lying in wait.

This will be Wales' third semi-final and the second under head coach Warren Gatland, who will step down at the end of the tournament.

That will bring to an end a glittering 12-year tenure which has yielded four Six Nations titles - including three Grand Slams - and a first stint as the world's number one-ranked side.

This is also likely to be a final World Cup for some Wales players such as captain Alun Wyn Jones, an inspirational leader who will join Italy's Sergio Parisse as the second-most capped international of all time with 142 appearances, including nine for the British and Irish Lions.

Wales have been building up to this moment for years and, with many believing this is their best chance yet to win a World Cup, Gatland is urging his players to seize the moment.

"I have got two games to go as the Wales coach and I want to enjoy these last two games, and there are probably nine or 10 players who won't be involved in another World Cup as well so they have got to relish that opportunity and be excited about this," he said.

Describe reaching the final? My vocabulary's not good enough - North

"You have got a chance to do something special in your life and these chances come along very rarely and you have got to grab them with both hands.

"When you want something bad enough and you really, really want it then it can happen.

"We have a group of players that really want to do a good performance on Sunday and hopefully get to the World Cup final."

Standing in Wales' way are a resurgent South Africa side, who pummelled their way past hosts Japan in the quarter-final.

Having slipped down the rankings in recent years, the two-time world champions seem to be on their way to reviving past glories since Rassie Erasmus was appointed head coach in 2018.

The former Munster boss has the enormous Springboks forwards back to their muscular best, while the likes of scrum-half Faf de Klerk and wing Cheslin Kolbe have provided the stardust to help their side claim notable results such as last year's series win over England and a draw in New Zealand during this summer's Rugby Championship.

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South Africa will be without the electric Kolbe against Wales because of an ankle injury, which Erasmus admits is a "big blow".

S'busiso Nkosi takes his place in the Springboks' only change from the victory over Japan.

Wales have multiple injury woes of their own, with full-back Liam Williams and back-rower Josh Navidi ruled out for the rest of the tournament with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.

Leigh Halfpenny replaces Williams and Ross Moriarty comes in for Navidi, while centre Jonathan Davies returns having missed the quarter-final win over France with a knee problem.

The teams

Wales: Halfpenny; North, J Davies, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; Wyn Jones, Owens, Francis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Tipuric, Moriarty.

Replacements: Dee, R Carre, D Lewis, Beard, Shingler, T Williams, Patchell, Watkin.

South Africa: Le Roux; Nkosi, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, De Klerk; Mtawarira, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Marx, Kitschoff, Koch, Snyman, Mostert, Louw, H Jantjies, Steyn.

Officials: Referee, Jerome Garces (France); Assistant referees, Wayne Barnes (England), Ben O'Keefe (New Zealand); TMO Ben Skeen (New Zealand).

What they said

Wales head coach Warren Gatland: "If we can make the World Cup final with the playing numbers we have got, it would be one hell of an achievement.

"It's one step at a time. We have got a challenge on our hands on Sunday against a side that has been improving.

"I think they have definitely improved under Rassie in terms of going back to some of the things they are good at, their strengths.

"I am excited about it. I'm more looking forward to this game than I was last week, and more confident about this game than we probably were against France."

South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus: "I think we have been under pressure to redeem ourselves for the last couple of years. We've been number five, six and seven in the world over the last three or four years and we've had some proper hidings against almost every team since 2015.

"We've lost to Italy, we've lost to Japan, we've been beaten by 57 points, 39-3 by Ireland. Some people have lost a lot of faith in us at different stages.

"We've got a different challenge which is to get respect back and so people start believing in us again. That was the pressure for us.

"Now we're at the stage where we want to be number one in the world again. Now there is internal pressure and expectation and that's different."

The ground

England beat New Zealand at International Stadium Yokohama in their semi-final
England beat New Zealand at International Stadium Yokohama in their semi-final

International Stadium Yokohama is a 72,327-capacity ground which will host both Rugby World Cup semi-finals and the final.

It opened in 1998 and hosted football's 2002 World Cup final, in which Brazil beat Germany 2-0.

The ground has also staged several Fifa Club World Cups as well as rugby Test matches including last year's 37-20 win for New Zealand over Australia.

Match stats

• Wales have won each of their past four test encounters with South Africa, after winning only two of their first 31 against them.

• South Africa's most recent victory over Wales came in the quarter-finals at the 2015 World Cup. The Boks won the game on a 75th-minute Fourie du Preez try.

• South Africa won each of the previous two World Cup meetings between these countries, 17-16 in the pool phase at 2011 and 23-19 in the 2015 quarter-finals.

• South Africa and New Zealand are the only World Cup opponents Wales have only lost against.

• Following their quarter-final win over France, Wales were the only team in the World Cup who have won five matches.

• The only player to feature in all four recent Wales victories over South Africa is Cory Hill, who dropped out of this World Cup squad injured.

• Pieter-Steph du Toit, Steven Kitshoff and Elton Jantjies are the only Springboks to feature in all four recent defeats by Wales.

• No team in World Cup history has lost a match in a tournament and then gone on to win it. South Africa lost their opening fixture against New Zealand.

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