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South Africa v Wales - Teams and Prediction

PREVIEW: The Springboks will be out to make a big statement when they take on Wales in their first test match as back-to-back World Cup champions.

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The two teams will lock horns at the iconic Twickenham Stadium in London on Saturday.

Since hoisting the Webb Ellis trophy in 2023 a lot has changed for South Africa, with the most significant being Rassie Erasmus replacing his friend Jacques Nienaber as head coach of the national team.

Erasmus’ second tenure also sees Tony Brown and Jerry Flannery join the modified Springbok coaching team.

Erasmus kicks off his latest head coach gig against the old foe Warren Gatland, who is also in his second spell as head coach of Wales.

The two nations head into this Saturday’s match on very contrasting form, with the Springboks claiming one-point wins over France, England and New Zealand for the World Cup title.

For Wales, they suffered a World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Argentina and concluded the Six Nations at the bottom of the table after losing all their five matches.

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When looking at the fixture, Wales are the distinct underdogs and with good reason.

They arrive at Twickenham without numerous frontline players, adding to the major gulf in experience between the two nations.

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The Springboks have 10 of the matchday 23 from their latest World Cup triumph in Paris last October in their side and lock Eben Etzebeth will be winning his 119th cap – more than the entire Welsh pack.

Malcolm Marx makes his long-awaited return, while Vincent Koch celebrates his 50th Test cap in green and gold.

The second row sees an imposing pair in the form of Etzebeth and Franco Mostert. Their last international game together was the World Cup Final victory against New Zealand in Paris in October 2023.

Wales head coach Gatland has urged his young side to relish the challenge against the Springboks.

“You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side. There is nothing wrong with that – you have to be brave and overcome your fear factor,” said Gatland.

“You are going out there and playing against big men and it’s going to hurt. You have to go through some pain.

“That is the way you improve, by playing against the best. That’s not just in rugby but any sport – it is the biggest part of your development.

“Test match rugby is tough and physical, and you have got to be able to handle adversity. It is probably not the politically correct thing at the moment in today’s society, but you have to be mentally tough.”

The harsh reality for Wales fans is that the Springboks are just the better side when it comes to this encounter.

However, they will draw inspiration from their head-on-head record against the champs.

In recent years, results between the two nations have been quite close, with just the 52-16 Springbok victory in Cardiff ahead of the World Cup being the standout.

Other than that most matches were decided by five points or less.

“There is no easy Test match anymore,” Springbok captain Pieter-Steph told reporters in his preview of the stern challenge Wales pose.

“What makes it so difficult to play against them is the physicality. They are big boys, they are hard.

“I still remember when we played against them last year the message we got from the coach was that they are going to keep coming until the last whistle.

“I think it was after the second or third try, while other teams normally walk to the halfway line to take the kick-off, they were jogging and ready to get the next points on the board.

“So, they are not going to stop and that is what makes it so challenging to play against them.”

Du Toit admitted that being regarded as favourites does add additional pressure, but it comes with the territory of being a Springbok.

“The pressure to win is always there when you put on the green and gold jersey.

“We have done our preparation the last few weeks. We got a new defence coach, a new attack coach, but the core of the squad is the same.

“We got a little bit of a physical edge over them, but the pressure is definitely on both sides.”

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For South Africa: It is certainly an all-star line-up for the Boks. However, a few new faces have a chance to show their metal. All eyes will be on flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse, as he makes his debut in the No.10 jersey. The 22-year-old will have to keep a cool head when pulling the strings for the Boks in front of thousands of fans at Twickenham. With Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie sidelined due to injury, the door has opened for Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe. Known for his pace and lethal footwork, the wing finally has an opportunity to light up the international stage. The other players to keep a close eye on are  Stormers No.8 Evan Roos and Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi, who both have been impressive for their respective franchises.

For Wales: It’s a test of fire as Hooker Dewi Lake leads his side against the Springboks. Scrumhalf Ellis Bevan will make his international debut, becoming the 1,203-third player to represent Wales. Dragons duo Matthew Screech and Ben Carter, selected in the second row, will have their work cut out for them as they face the stern test against Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert. In the backline, the electric Rio Dyer and experienced Liam Williams can pose a threat. Williams makes his first appearance for Wales since the World Cup.

Head to head

Prediction

@rugby365com: South Africa by 25 points

Teams: 

South Africa: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (captain), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Ox Nche.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 23 Damian de Allende.

Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Mason Grady, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 James Botham, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Ben Carter, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Dewi Lake (captain), 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 James Ratti, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Eddie James, 23 Jacob Beetham.

Date: Saturday, June 22
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14.00 (15.00 SA time; 13.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Light rain with a high of 22°C and a low of 12°C.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Adam Leal (England)
TMO: Mark Patton (Ireland)

 

 

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