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Compliments and playing better only gets you so far. In the end, Francois Hougaard (today’s example) manages to break through and score a winning try, giving South Africa a quite undeserved 17-16 win over Wales in Group D.

James Hook was brilliant. Sam Warburton won the man of the match award, which probably didn’t really give him too much pleasure after the final whistle. Wales missed out on a huge opportunity to beat the World Champions who came out in what looked like a tired and struggling effort to come away with the win. They did just that.

Pressed in their 22 for long stretches of the match, the South Africans enjoyed the early Frans Steyn try and his fantastic clearing kicks. Hardly any play or creativity from the wingers or from their Fly Half, Morne Steyn and Scrum Half, Fourie de Preez. Straightforward, time wasting kind of Rugby. Defensively, their effort was sound, close to excellent. They did concede penalties, but held the lines very well.

Only once they messed up, allowing Toby Faletau to score a try that gave Wales the hard earned 16-10 lead in the 53rd minute. Twelve minutes later, as we’ve mentioned earlier, South Africa upped the tempo and finally looked a bit hard pressed to get a score. And they did, through substitute Francois Hougaard.

This was the best match of the World Cup so far, with a Wales side that was very enjoyable to watch, for those who like teams who push forward with the ball all the time, not looking to win through penalties and pushing ahead through scrums. South Africa, quite the opposite, took the direct approach not too often, but experience and great defense take you a long way. The beginning of the title defense didn’t go smoothly, but ended with a win. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

I’m still wondering about that penalty from James Hook in the 14th minute. It looked good to me, and to a lot of other people. Well, champions need a bit of luck on their side as well.