Preview: South Africa v Wales

Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:55
Large springbok training2

Paul Dobson brings us his unique view on the second Test between South Africa and Wales in the Lowveld town of Nelspruit.

It is an interesting game in an interesting town, this second Test between South Africa and Wales, one in which a losers could get more kudos than the winners if the Welsh are the losers and do better than they did in Durban.

By the same token the loser could be so vilified that the winner is almost ignored, if that loser is the Springboks.

The praise of the Springboks was so loud after the Durban Tests that it virtually drowned all other sound. That means that same again or even better is what is expected of them.

Wales, one expects, will lift their sights higher than just reducing a five-to-one try deficit or reducing the size of the Springbok victory. They will want to win and the second half, when the try score was one-all, the Springboks just won the half 10-7 and Wales got more and more into the game, is sure to encourage them after the nightmare first half.

Secondly they know to expect the devastating unexpected from Willie le Roux, who so bamboozled them and played an important part in four of the five Springbok tries.

If the Springboks trot onto the field complacently on Saturday, they will lose. Overconfidence has forever been the besetting sin of Springbok rugby.

The warning should be: Remember 1982.

In 1982 the Springboks thumped the Jaguars 50-18 in Pretoria and lost to them (12-21) a week later in the second Test in Bloemfontein. Remember that.

It has happened more often than one thinks as second Tests show - in 1910, 1928, 1933 (when a 17-3 win became a 6-21 defeat), 1953, 1958, 1963, 1970, 1971, 1976, 1986, 1993, 1996, and 2000. It's a sobering list.

In fact there is a warning example from Australia where, the previous two weeks, they scored 50 points in the first Test and a meagre six in the miserable second Test.

There are no certainties in rugby and coach Heyneke Meyer is aware of the danger.

For this second Test there is no doubt that the result will be determined in the minds and hearts of the two teams. If the Springboks bring their first-half team from last week, they should again be able to out-muscle and out-speed the Welsh. But if Wales match South African physicality and get their backs a fair share of good ball, we could have a thrilling game on our hands.

Contain the Springbok pack and contain Le Roux and you have a game on your hands. Mind you the Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn may also well have surprised them with his creativity and allround activity, admittedly off the luxury of Fourie du Preez and the forwards in front of him.

One place where Wales were better was a pinching ball at tackles. Combine this with the running possibilities of their backs and we could have more than just Alec Cuthbert's try from Wales.

The Springboks have made two changes. Tendai Mtawarira is on for Gurthrö Steenkamp, though Steenkamp so dominated in the first half that the feeble efforts of Adam Jones were punished by an early substitution and a disappearance from the Test squad altogether. But Mtawarira showed in the second half he had much to offer.

Then Bakkies Botha is rested, though why he is rested at this stage in the season is not abundantly clear, and rugged Flip van der Merwe comes in.

The Welsh also have two changes, also in their pack where Samson Lee continues at tighthead after his replacement of Adam Jones and Josh Turnbull comes onto the flank.

Neither coaching team has found a reason to change the teams much.

Players to Watch:

For South Africa: On the Springbok side Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn and Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield and the hefty loose forwards. They are men who made obvious contributions and there was a better performance from Jan Serfontein who is better when he is creative than when he plays stormtrooper.

For Wales: All the backs from No.11 to No.15, but especially those wings who have the speed, strength and skill to change matches. In the forwards there are Dan Lydiate at the tackle and Alun Wyn Jones in the line-out who are interesting.

Head to Head: Centres versus centres - the attack of the direct Welsh duo, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies, against the strong defence of the Springboks Jan Serfontein and JP Pietersen. Serfontein was excellent on defence in the first Test. Cornal Hendricks, novice, versus George North, established star. Calm Fourie du Preez against bellicose Mike Phillips. Du Preez has more to offer anyway but both will be affected by what the forwards do, especially at the breakdown. Maul to Maul. The Springboks used it more sparingly than usual but preferred to use moves involving the forwards from line-outs. Duane Vermeulen's try came directly from such a piece of subtlety. Victor Matfield versus Alun Wyn Jones at the line-outs - not that there were great contests last week. Samson versus Beast (Wales' Samson Lee against SA's Tendai Mtawarira) in the scrums. There were only a dozen scrums in the first Test but they were enough to give the Springboks the morale boost of early dominance. Lee brought greater stability. The boot of Morné Steyn versus the boot of Dan Biggar. Both accurate, both can drop but Steyn may have greater length. Francois Louw versus Dan Lydiate at the breakdowns.

Recent results:
2014: South Africa won 38-16, Durban
2013: South Africa won 24-15, Cardiff
2011: South Africa won 17-16, Wellington
2010: South Africa won 29-25, Cardiff
2010: South Africa won 34-31, Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 20-15, Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 37-21, Pretoria
2008: South Africa won 43-17, Bloemfontein
2007: South Africa won 34-12, Cardiff
2005: South Africa won 33-16, Cardiff

Prediction: We were conservative last week and proved wrong by the power of the Springboks. But we shall again be conservative this week and say the Springboks by about five in a thriller in Nelspruit.


South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lodewyk de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.  
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.

Date: Saturday, 21 June 2014
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT; 14.00 BST)
Expected weather: Sunny with a high of 23°C, dropping to 2°C.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Francesco Pastrana (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

By Paul Dobson