Rugby Union: Wales sink Springboks 12-6

Wales' Liam Williams (right) tackles South Africa's Cornal Hendricks during their Autumn International rugby union match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales Nov 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Wales' Liam Williams (right) tackles South Africa's Cornal Hendricks during their Autumn International rugby union match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales Nov 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

CARDIFF (REUTERS) - Wales ended their long and frustrating wait for victory over a southern hemisphere heavyweight when Leigh Halfpenny kicked them to a 12-6 victory over South Africa on Saturday.

Welsh celebrations were at odds with Springbok gloom.

Among the World Cup favourites when they return to these shores next year, their northern hemisphere tour was marred by an apparent serious leg injury suffered by captain and centre Jean de Villiers.

It was only a second win for Wales in 28 games against the big three of New Zealand, Australia and the Springboks, and the first over South Africa since 1999 having lost their last 16 before Saturday's triumph.

Wales had come agonsingly close to beating the Springboks in June, a late converted penalty try condemning them to a 31-30 defeat in Nelspruit.

In a dress rehearsal for a possible World Cup quarter-final meeting next year if both progress from the pool stage, Pat Lambie landed two penalties for the tired-looking Springboks who go home after suffering tour defeats against Ireland and Wales, along with victories over England and Italy.

After the disappointment of last week's defeat by New Zealand when Wales led going into the last 15 minutes, only to capitulate to the world champions, victory was met with rapturous scenes at the Millennium Stadium.

As a chorus of Land Of My Fathers (Welsh national anthem) echoed around the stadium, the Welsh players embraced and raised their hands in triumph before later taking a lap of honour.

That the win after a series of near misses against the big guns came with little flair will matter not to coach Warren Gatland, who had become accustomed to being asked why his side could not quite get over the line against the world's best.

This time they did, despite a tense finale when South Africa mounted late pressure but, not for the first time, were undone by a mistake forced by resilient defence.

Halfpenny kicked four out of five penalties for the Welsh who carried the greater attacking threat throughout a scrappy, physical affair in which try-scoring chances were few and far between.