Wales

Preview: Wales v South Africa

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 06:25
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Who is your money on?

Quote-end

The match at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff will start in sombre silence on Saturday, for it is the remembrance weekend.

A bugler will sound the haunting, so sad Last Post and the two captains, Sam Warburton of Wales and Jean de Villiers of South Africa, will lay wreaths to the commemorate the Welsh and South African internationals killed in that lunatic war.

One of the killed had connections to both countries. He played for Wales and was living in South Africa when the war broke out. He joined the South African Heavy Artillery Regiment and was killed at Arras on the Western Front on 14 December 1914 at the age of 28.

The referee will blow his whistle and there will be silence no longer. It is impossible to play rugby silently in Wales and if Heyneke Meyer agrees that the roof should be closed the noise will be all the greater. And if Wales look like winning  the  hwyl will produce enough noise to re-echo off the roof, filling that grand auditorium and threatening to raise the roof.

And could Wales 'look like winning'? Their coaches, Warren Gatland and Rob Howley, believe so. Their captain Sam Warburton believes to. All of Wales believes so. And there are signs that their faith is not unfounded. Their recent efforts make them credible.

In 2011 when the teams met last, the Springboks won by a single point on a cold night when Wales's kicking let them down and they had a kick turned down which they thought was over. Then this year they won the Six Nations, including lathering England 30-3, and then formed the bulk of the side that won the series for the B&I Lions over the Wallabies with a 41-16 win in Sydney in the deciding Test.

And this time they are again at home where the Springboks have won their last three encounters by five points or fewer. Wales have a right to be confident even if the Springboks are ranked second, Wales sixth.

Of course, first-phase ball is important. The line-outs are likely to be a battle as both sides have more than two options but the Springboks have Eben Etzebeth. The scrums could well favour the Welsh who have an experienced, settled, strong front row while the Springboks have a new cap in young Frans Malherbe. But from time to time the Springboks spring surprises.

The breakdown is crucial and so is pick-'d-drive after tackles. Both sides have the loose forwards who can excel there especially if their tight forwards get them onto the front foot and their backs bring them into the game.

The backs are not easily evaluated. The Springboks have just two home-based backs - Jean de Villiers and Pat Lambie.  Wales, even without Shane Williams, have some excellent backs. In the Six Nations Wales scored nine tries to three, and the three against them were all in their first match against Ireland. France, Scotland, Italy and England did not score a try against them, which suggests that their defence is excellent. In the Championship just finished the Springboks scored 23 tries to 13.

Both sides have excellent goal-kickers in Leigh Halfpenny and Morné Steyn.

Both sides have excellent, gentlemanly captains in Sam Warburton and Jean de Villiers.

Players to Watch:

For Wales: Leigh Halfpenny who runs effective counterattacks that he disguises as harmless, both wings George North and Liam Williams who can also punish inaccurate kicking, outside centre Jonathan Davies and Toby Faletau, so strong on his feet.

For South Africa: Jaque Fourie who last played a Test in 2011 and has been earning hugely in Japan but on his day a world-class centre, Fourie du Preez with his wonderful feel for the game and his great skills, Duane Vermeulen if he is invited to play and Bismarck du Plessis, one of the world's great hookers, strong and capable of winning tackle ball.

Head to Head: Welsh front row (Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones) vs South African front row (Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Malherbe). It's still a great place to start winning a Test. Toby Faletau vs Duane Vermeulen. Jaque Fourie vs Jonathan Davies, men so strong on their feet, so powerful with ball in hand. The contest between two great wings - George North and Bryan Habana. Bench vs Bench. It is just possible that South Africa have the edge here, except for James Hook.

Recent Results
2011: South Africa won 17-16, Wellington (World Cup pool match)
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
2004: South Africa won 38-36, Cardiff
2004: South Africa won 53-18, Pretoria  

Prediction: History favours the Springboks. They met first in 1906 and have met 26 times - 16 times in Wales, once in London while Millennium Stadium was being built, once in New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup and eight times in South Africa. Of those 26 matches South Africa have won 24, there was a draw in 1969 and Wales won once - in 1999. But history is there to be changed, records to be broken. It could just be a cracking game. The Springbok attack has come alive and the Welsh can always attack. Close the roof and it could just be the best ever with three points between the teams in a high scoring game with the Springboks just scoring three more, and even the Last Post will be silent.

Teams

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 12 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Paul James, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Ashley Beck.

South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 JJ Engelbrecht, 23 Willie le Roux.

Date: Saturday, 9 November 2013
Kick-off: 17.30 (17.30 GMT; 19.30 SA time)
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Expected weather: It will be cold and damp in Cardiff on Saturday but that may play no part if the roof is closed.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

By Paul Dobson

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