South Africa v Wales - Teams and Prediction
SECOND TEST PREVIEW: Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber is confident his debutants can stand up to the physical challenge Wales will bring in Saturday’s second Test in Bloemfontein.
The Bok coach made a whopping 19 changes to his matchday squad after a narrow 32-29 win in the first Test in Pretoria.
Two uncapped players in the form of Bulls wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stormers’ No. 8 Evan Roos will be starting this weekend. There are four other uncapped players – scrumhalf Grant Williams, prop Ntuthuko Mchunu, lock Ruan Nortje and flank Deon Fourie – among the replacements.
Those players were standout performers in the United Rugby Championship, but Test rugby is a whole different kettle of fish.
Wales got under the Boks’ skin with their physicality in the first Test and they will be looking to do the same at the Free State Stadium.
“A lot of people expected Wales to be a rollover, based on their performances in the Six Nations,” said Nienaber.
“Like I said last week, the only thing we can do is look at the reality. They lost their last five Test matches now, but there was a [single] score [margin] in all of those Test matches.
“It’s big games and big teams that they have played and it could have gone either way.
“From the onset, we thought it was going to be a tight game and a tight series and Wales are a team that can bring it physically.
“It is going to be the challenge for our debutants and they know it and we believe they are good enough to handle that.”
The preview continues below…
The Bok coach pinpointed an area his team will need to improve in to get a second win over Wales.
“I think we have to improve our execution.
“There was a good grind and fight from the players to come back from 3-18 down.
“From a physical point of view, it must give a guy a lot of confidence to come back at altitude with that big buffer that you have to erase.
“I think we are conditioned well to the physicality, but we have to improve in terms of our execution.”
Meanwhile, one of those six debutants mentioned above opened up on the opportunity to run out in the green and gold.
Speedster Arendse is no stranger to top-class rugby having represented the Springbok Sevens team and participated in the United Rugby Championship final for the Bulls.
“I never thought I would be selected for the Springboks so early in my career, so I am very grateful for the opportunity,” said Arendse.
“How the Sevens structures operates is very similar to the XVs systems, so it is great to be here and to keep learning.”
Arendse added: “There were nerves when I heard I was selected for the team, and there are still some nerves but I am just planning to take each day in my stride.”
On the other side of the fence, Wales captain Dan Biggar says his team will be looking to build on their performance in the first Test and bag a historic victory over the Boks.
“I thought we were good value for our lead at half-time,” said Biggar.
“In the build-up to the first couple of tries they scored, I think we made six errors on the bounce, which against a team like South Africa just coughs up field position and possession and you are under the pump.
“It will be very similar for us this weekend – we will be looking to move the ball around, take our opportunities and play in the right areas.
“We were pretty much spot on with our approach last week. It was just a couple of key moments we didn’t get quite right.”
Biggar added: “It’s really important in a series to put in a good performance and I think that has given us a lot of confidence going into this week and hopefully into a decider in a week’s time.”
Players to watch
For South Africa: Most of the spotlight will be on the debutants and a few returning players in the Springboks’ matchday squad. No.8 Evan Roos was by far the best player in the 2021/22 United Rugby Championship season. He is a powerhouse with ball in hand and he is more than capable of giving Wales a few problems at the breakdowns. Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse can cut any defence into shreds when he is given time and space. He is very much in the mould of Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon and it all depends on how much ball he gets to work with. In the midfield, Andre Esterhuizen finally gets another opportunity to show his worth. The Harlequins centre has been one of the best players in England’s Premiership in the last couple of seasons and he will be looking to cement a place in Nienaber’s squad going forward. He is a strong ball carrier and he also has a big boot on him as well. On the bench, Ruan Nortje is a dynamic lock who has the skills to be an asset in open play and the physicality and aggression to dominate opponents in the close exchanges. Meanwhile, Deon Fourie will bring a lot of energy to the field in the second half. Like Marcell Coetzee, he is a master at the breakdowns and he is not afraid to show some blood demonstrating it.
For Wales: There is just one change to Wales’ starting team from last week’s match and that is Alex Cuthbert’s inclusion on the wing. He is a big physical presence in that back three and he has plenty of experience on the international stage. On the other wing, Louis Rees-Zammit is a try-scoring machine and he showed it in that first Test with two scores. Flyhalf and captain Dan Biggar enjoyed getting in the Boks’ faces at Loftus Versfeld and he will look to lead that charge again this weekend. His tactical play could also give the Welsh an upper hand. Flank Tommy Reffell had an outstanding debut last week and he will need to be on top of his game to match the threat posed by Marcell Coetzee and Evan Roos at the breakdowns. In the second row, Will Rowlands was a colossus in Pretoria and he will have a target on his back in Bloemfontein.
Last 10 encounters:
2014: South Africa won 31-30, Nelspruit
2014: Wales won 12-6, Cardiff
2015: South Africa won 23-19, London (RWC Quarterfinal)
2016: Wales won 27-13, Cardiff
2017: Wales won 24-22, Cardiff
2018: Wales won 22-20, Washington DC
2018: Wales won 20-11, Cardiff
2019: South Africa won 19-16, Yokohama (RWC Semifinal)
2021: South Africa won 23-18, Cardiff
2022: South Africa won 32-29, Pretoria
@rugby365com: South Africa by two points.
South Africa: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kurt Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Jaden Henrikse, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Dan Biggar (captain), 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Sam Wainwright, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Josh Adams.
Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.05 (16.05 UK time; 15.05 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be clear and sunny with a high of around 20°C and a low of 4°C
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)