HADLEIGH PARKES was ineligible to play for Wales yesterday – but he came straight in for a two-try man of the match performance to sink South Africa.
New Zealand-born Parkes, 30, looked the classy centre Warren Gatland has been looking for with two early scores.
South Africa almost staged a comeback of the ages in Cardiff as they came back into the game from three tries down to lead.
But Leigh Halfpenny kicked the deciding points for a narrow win after a nervous finale.
South Africa were slow out of the blocks and the home side took perfect advantage of their dithering.
Wales had all the early territory and Biggar’s stunning cross-field kick was picked up by Hallam Amos in acres of space as the Dragons man side-stepped and was tackled.
A brilliant offload to Scott Williams did the job though as the centre went over.
Then seconds later, Parkes became the debut hero as he raced on to another lovely chip through from Biggar to score.
Bizarrely, about four South Africans could have picked the ball up, but Parkes – who qualified to play for Wales TODAY – showed more desire than the dithering defenders to score.
The visitors will feel unlucky they were not awarded the try, but Malcolm Marx was held up on the line after great work by Josh Navidi.
Wales 24 South Africa 22
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Wales 18 NZ 33
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It looked like he had, but the TMO just could not ascertain that he had put the ball down.
Then the game turned again in Wales’ favour after a brilliant closed-down kick by Parkes saw Taulupe Faletau get the ball in hand.
He simply then had to pass back inside for Parkes to score under the posts.
But the visitors weren’t out of it and almost staged one of THE comebacks of the Millennium Stadium era.
First, Warren Gelant took advantage of some slack defending from Josh Navidi, who missed a simple tackle on Dillyn Leyds.
Then fly half Handre Pollard got the visitors back into the game following an explosive start to the second half.
And Jesse Kriel gave them the lead with 20 minutes to go.
It only took Halfpenny’s boot to save Wales’ autumn.
They’ve lost to Australia and New Zealand – again – this year and beaten the Springboks… again.
It was such a depleted Wales team, it will be difficult for Gatland to read much into the clash – given so many players were away with their English clubs or injured.
But the Welsh will go into the Six Nations the fourth-best team, behind England, Ireland and probably Scotland.
Now was the time to experiment, the spring will be the time to develop, but the Red Rose will take some stopping in 2018.