WALES suffered yet another brave defeat to a southern hemisphere big gun after going down to a 29-25 loss to South Africa at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon.

Warren Gatland’s men laid siege to the Springboks line at the death but failed to burst over for what would have been a match-winner.

Wales led 17-9 at the break - with George North scoring a try and producing a superb display on debut - but were overpowered by the direct world champions early in the second half.

It had all started so well for the hosts.

Morne Steyn struck a second-minute penalty for the Springboks but then Wales were rewarded for their ambition in kicking a penalty to the corner.

The world champions defended the lineout well but wing North raced over through midfield when the ball was spread out to the left for a fifth-minute try.

The South Africans left to complain about a block on Jean de Villiers by Tom Shanklin and their mood got over worse on 16 minutes when they over pursued a clearance kick.

Full-back Lee Byrne opted to run it back and North charged into enemy territory.

The ball was recycled quickly and worked wide for Shane Williams to dance through midfield before drawing the last man to put centre James Hook over.

Stephen Jones added his second conversion to put Wales, who were causing the Boks all manner of problems with their hard carrying and fast recycling, 14-3 up.

Steyn and Jones traded penalties but it was the hosts who were doing all the pressing against a South Africa side lacking composure.

The fly-halves added a penalty each to their tallies before the break and the Boks would have been grateful to be in touch at 17-9.

The kickers continued their personal battle with a three-pointer apiece in the early stages of the second half but it was the visitors who were starting to pile on the pressure.

They started bringing their big units into the game and the inevitable try came when replacement back row Willem Alberts piled over from close range in the right corner.

Steyn added the extras superbly from the touchline and it was a one-point game with half an hour left.

But not for long.

The Boks pounded away, playing their brutal style of rugby and talisman lock Victor Matfield went over on 53 minutes with Steyn adding the conversion for a 26-20 lead.

It was frenetic stuff and after an Alun Wyn Jones charge down Wales won possession inside the South Africa half.

Jones showed remarkable composure to place a well-judged cross kick to the right where North went over for his second try.

Jones narrowly failed with the conversion but Wales had gathered their breath.

However, they found themselves further back when pinged for offside by referee Steve Walsh in front of the sticks, Steyn slotting over the simple effort to make it 29-25.

Wales battered away at the visitors’ line but were unable to force their way over, yet again having to reflect on coming close to claiming the scalp of a Tri-Nations side.

Wales scorers: tries - North (2), Hook; conversions - Jones (2); penalties - Jones (2) South Africa scorers: tries - Alberts, Matfield; conversions - Steyn (2); penalties - Steyn (5)