South Africa v Wales - team and prediction
THIRD TEST PREVIEW: The pre-series predictions have been thrown out the window. It has come down to a one-game shoot-out between host South Africa and the visiting Welsh team.
Coming into the series as red-hot favourites, the pressure is now on the SA players going into the decider.
This is the first three-Test series between the Springboks and Welsh Dragons, after three 2-0 wins for South Africa – in 2002 (34-19 & 19-8), 2008 (43-17 & 37-21) and 2014 (38-16 & 31-30).
Saturday is undoubtedly going to be a humdinger in the Cape Town stadium.
Call it what you like, but the pundits and Springboks got their assessments badly wrong.
This Wales team is not the saturnine team on an otiose mission.
However, the tourists gave notice of their intention to rip the script up when they took an 18-3 lead at half-time in the first Test in Pretoria – against Jacques Nienaber’s A-team. They were very unfortunate to lose 29-32 in a Test in which there were many questions about the officiating.
They further soured the mood in the Republic when they turned the tables on the Boks with a 13-12 win in the second outing in Bloemfontein, scoring the only try of the match.
Wales captain Dan Biggar was on the money when he suggested too much was read into the 2022 Six Nations results.
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“We had a bad day at the office in our [Six Nations] opener against Ireland, but definitely should have won against France and could have won against England,” the veteran flyhalf said.
“A lot of credit must go to [coach] Wayne [Pivac] and his management team, who did not overreact after the Six Nations.
“We have rolled up our sleeves, worked together, and have a chance of winning a series in South Africa for the first time.”
Biggar admitted people would have laughed at them if they had predicted a series decider in Cape Town before the tour.
“We have worked our socks off, so it would be brilliant to get the reward [of a series win] on Saturday,” the Welsh coach said.
Biggar said it would be a “great occasion” and “much of the same” they faced if the first Test.
“You know exactly what is coming,” he said, adding: “It is just whether you are good enough or powerful enough to stop them on the day.”
He added it will come down to “small margins” on Saturday, with discipline and effort top of the list f key aspects.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, asked about not living up o the pre-series expectations, said Wales have shown over the years – certainly in the last two matches – that they are “real fighters”.
“It will require a top-class performance from us on Saturday to register a victory and ultimately clinch the series,” Nienaber said.
Nienaber expected another brutal, in-your-face approach from Wales.
“We pointed out from the outset of the series that Wales will be desperate and they showed that in the last two weeks.
“We are expecting another hard grind against them and the fact that they will be playing for their first series victory ever in South Africa will make them even more desperate to push us to the limit this weekend, so we know it will be an epic battle.
“That said, we are also playing in what is essentially a final for us and we know that we need to pitch up on the day and deliver a quality 80-minute performance to emerge victorious.”
Wales coach Wayne Pivac was understating the importance of the match when he said it was a “big occasion” in Cape Town.
“We would like to think the effort will be there as it has been in the first two Tests,” he said.
“Our boys have gone toe-to-toe with two different sides,” Pivac said of the many changes – 14 from the first Test to the second, and another 11 this week.
“There is one more BIG game and an opportunity for both sides to win a series.
“There is a lot to play for.”
He added that a series win would “mean the world for the team” and if the first two Tests are anything to go by it is going to be another cracker.
“Throwing a series decider in, it adds a bit of spice to it,” he said of the Cape Town shoot-out.
The coach said his team will go into the decider with a bit more continuity, given the mass changes to the Bok matchday squads every week.
Players to watch
For South Africa: The Springboks made 15 alterations – including 10 to the starting line-up – for the decider in Cape Town, with captain and flank Siyamthanda Kolisi among those recalled. A surprise was the retention of scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, who won only his third cap in Bloemfontein, with long-time first-choice Francois de Klerk on the bench. Damian Willemse at fullback and Pieter-Steph du Toit on the flank will also attract a share of the spotlight.
For Wales: Wayne Pivac made just one change among his starters, with the return of left wing Josh Adams for the series decider – necessitated by an injury to Alex Cuthbert. Captain and flyhalf Dan Biggar and tighthead prop Dillon Lewis retired injured during the second Test, but were declared fit to play in Cape Town. Lock Alun Wyn Jones, who has won a world record 152 caps for Wales, is a towering figure on the bench and keen to put behind him yellow cards in the first two Tests.
Head to head
@rugby365com: South Africa by nine points
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Elrigh Louw, 22 Francois de Klerk, 23 Willie le Roux.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 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 Owen Watkin.
Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17.05 (16.05 UK & Ireland time; 15.05 GMT)
Expected weather: Mostly cloudy and warm, but no real chance of precipitation.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)