PREVIEW: WALES VS SOUTH AFRICA

Nov 27 • General News, International, Springboks, World Rugby • 2307 Views • Comments Off on PREVIEW: WALES VS SOUTH AFRICA

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Written by William Brown – Rugby 15
Photo: Anton Geyser

The travelling Springboks come up against Wales in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday, in a test which is the last on their current tour of Italy and the British Isles.

The previous meeting between these two countries was in Nelspruit earlier this year and South Africa scraped a 31-30 victory on that occasion. The Welsh conceded two penalty tries in the Mbombela Stadium, and will run out in Cardiff with much to prove after that dramatic loss.

Warren Gatland has made three changes to the team that went down to the All Blacks at the same venue last weekend. Liam Williams takes over from injured George North on the wing. Veteran Gethin Jenkins comes in at loose-head prop for Paul James and Scott Baldwin takes over from Richard Hibbard at hooker.

James (Bath) and Hibbard (Gloucester) are ruled out because the Wales game takes place outside the globally-agreed window for international matches. North suffered a severe laceration against the Kiwis.

The Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer, has made eight changes to the match-day 23 that faced Italy in Paduva last weekend. Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up. The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational. Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the 23.

The Boks know that they will have to show better form than they did in Nelspruit to defeat a Welsh side that will be desperate for a victory over the touring Boks. Coach Meyer is realistic about the Boks’ chances. “We will face a fired-up Welsh side this weekend. They played very well against New Zealand and it will be a tough end to our season, but we want to finish on a high and the focus this week has been on ensuring we keep on building on what we’ve done thus far this year.”

The Welsh coach has been under some pressure lately, with rumours abounding that he is to be replaced. He was fairly calm in his press interview: “You are always under pressure in sport but it’s more about the pressure you put on yourself rather than external pressure”.

The Boks will have to be at their best defensively if they want to keep the bulky Welsh backs at bay. Jan Serfontein and Jean de Villiers have not shied away from any challenge recently, but they will be hard pressed to withstand the questions posed by Welsh centres Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts. Behind them, Leigh Halfpenny has proven himself as a rock-solid fullback. His place-kicking is metronomic and he poses a serious threat to the visitors. Bok flyhalf Patrick Lambie will have to be spot-on with his tactical kicking.

Up front the Welsh have a pack of forwards that can measure up to the best in the world. Lock Alun Wyn Jones has been in inspirational form recently and his leadership will prove to be crucial if the home team have any hope of recording their second victory over the Boks. In the back row captain Sam Warburton has also been rampant. The recent poor Welsh form has not been due to a lack of effort from this stalwart. His duel with Bok counterpart Marcell Coetzee will be something to behold.

A prediction will be foolish. The Boks will always go into this contest as favourites, but neither team has been in scintillating form. The Welsh performance against New Zealand last weekend was especially courageous. The Dragons were only put away in the last few minutes by the world champions. The passionate Welsh crowd may just prove to be the decisive factor in this eagerly anticipated contest.

Teams:

Wales:
Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues), Jonathan Davies (Clermont Auvergne), Jamie Roberts (Racing Metro), Liam Williams (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Rhys Webb (Ospreys); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), Scott Baldwin (Ospreys), Samson Lee (Scarlets), Jake Ball (Scarlets), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Unattached), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues, Capt), Taulupe Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons).

Replacements: Emyr Phillips (Scarlets), Aaron Jarvis (Ospreys), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), Luke Charteris (Racing Metro), James King (Ospreys), Mike Phillips (Racing Metro), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets).

South Africa:
Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (Captain), Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Duane Vermeulen, Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, Marcell Coetzee, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtwarira.

Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Julian Redelinghuys, Lood de Jager, Nizaam Carr, Francois Hougaard, handré Pollard and Damian de Allende.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

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