Wales v South Africa - teams and prediction
CARDIFF COMBAT: The Six Nations champions against the World Cup holders. This is how this game is being billed.
“South Africa is coming to town, as world champions,” Wales coach Wayne Pivac said in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter with the Springboks.
And he was quick to talk up the visitors as pre-match favourites.
“They have got a massive forward pack,” he said, adding: “They are big across the park, really, and they bring a huge aerial threat, so it is going to be a different challenge [to what New Zealand presented last week].”
Much has been made of the Dragons’ record against the Springboks in the last decade.
The visitors’ last win in Cardiff was in November 2013.
However, injuries may have handed the favourites tag to South Africa.
And Wales is also coming off a hammering at the hands of the All Blacks, a loss that has cost them key players like captain Alun Wyn Jones (requiring shoulder surgery) and Ross Moriarty (shoulder surgery).
Also missing is No.8 Taulupe Faletau, who suffered an ankle injury during training at his English club Bath.
Despite the eventual margin of their loss to New Zealand last week (16-54), the Welsh coach spoke of ‘building on the positive aspects’ of that game.
“We want to be positive where we can, but we have to be sensible as well,” the pragmatic Pivac said.
He spoke of the ‘threat’ the Boks bring, adding the cliched ‘world-class’ tag – pointing out South Africa beat New Zealand in their last outing.
“They have a magnificent set-piece,” Pivac said of the Boks, adding: “Discipline is going to be key.
“We have to try not to give them too many set-pieces, because they are very strong in that part of the game.
“[They have] aerial threats as well.
“We will have to be on top of our game.
“However, when we do have possession we will look to create some scoring opportunities.”
The other major hurdle is breaking down South Africa’s famed defensive wall.
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“It [defence] is probably what won them the World Cup,” the Welsh coach said.
“We had a good look at where we feel we can make some gains, in terms of our attack.
“We will have to look after the ball in contact, there is going to be some big contacts – whether we like it or not.
“Where we can find space – whether it is off the foot or through the hands – that is what we will try to do.”
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber also did his best to talk up the Welsh.
Nienaber said South Africa’s poor track record in Cardiff in recent times – where they haven’t won since 2013 – is a credit to the quality of the Welsh team in the past decade.
“The atmosphere in the stadium is tremendous,” he said of what is expected to be a packed Millennium Stadium.
“It is a very proud country and a very proud team, with a rich and strong rugby tradition.”
The Bok coach spoke of the quality of the coaching staff under New Zealander Wayne Pivac – who succeeded fellow Kiwi Warren Gatland.
“It is always a nice challenge for us as the Springboks to play them.”
He said Wales, under Pivac, have the ability to adjust to conditions and the opposition more easily.
“Against Argentina [in the mid-year Tests] I saw a different style,” he said of the team’s evolution under their latest Kiwi coach.
“They are in a period of transition,” Nienaber said, adding: “They will play according to what the conditions allow and what we allow.”
The Bok coach is familiar with Pivac – who coached Scarlets while Nienaber was at Munster – and he said the New Zealander always presents a good challenge.
“You never know what type of game you will get.
“From a coaching perspective I look very forward to this weekend, it is going to be a challenge in terms of getting our stuff right.”
Players to watch
For Wales: Neither of the hookers in the team – Ryan Elias starting in the No.2 jersey and South African-born and schooled Bradley Roberts playing off the bench – have had any international experience. As the Welsh coach, Pivac, said: “We are going to learn about both of them [at this level].” Another player worth watching is Ellis Jenkins, who is set to make his first Wales appearance in three years. The Cardiff flank suffered a serious knee injury during Wales’ 2018 win over the Springboks and was sidelined from all rugby for more than two years. But he now returns to Test duty and has replaced Ross Moriarty, who suffered a shoulder injury against the All Blacks. Will Rowlands, who takes over in the second row from the injured Wales captain, Jones, has an important role in the team. Experienced centre Jonathan Davies will lead Wales in Jones’ absence, with wing Louis Rees-Zammit and flyhalf Dan Biggar – who both missed the New Zealand match after their England-based clubs refused to release them for a Test outside World Rugby’s designated window – returning to the back division. Meanwhile, Pivac has also recalled in-form Saracens centre Nick Tompkins.
For South Africa: The Bok coach, Nienaber, has made three changes to his backline. The most significant of those is Damian Willemse at fullback – being groomed as the heir apparent to Willie le Roux. It is billed as a ‘rotational switch’ but Nienaber has made it clear Le Roux is mentoring the 23-year-old and passing as much as possible of his IP onto the youngster. Willemse is expected to get an extended run in only his third Test start. Herschel Jantjies also gets a rare start, also his third, in place of injured scrumhalf Francois de Klerk. Seasoned No.9 Cobus Reinach will play off the bench, giving Jantjies a chance to stake his claim as a more permanent starter. The last significant change is Jesse Kriel on the right wing, in place of Sibusiso Nkosi, who is yet to travel to the United Kingdom – as he awaits a new passport.
Head to head
@rugby365com: South Africa by eight points
Wales: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rhys Carré.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Roberts, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Seb Davies, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Liam Williams.
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
Date: Saturday, November 6
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17.30 (19.30 SA time; 17.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Light rain, getting heavier in the early evening. High of 14°C and a low of 8°C
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)