Boks have a point to prove

2010-11-13 00:00

THE powerful Springbok pack and the foul weather did for the Irish a week ago, but the South Africans will be tested extensively across the field when they face Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this evening.

The Irish were expected to provide the under-prepared, disrupted Boks with their most searching test of their grand slam tour in Dublin, but they were tactically naive and untidy in the wet as the control of the South African forwards settled the contest (23-21). Still, they came within the width of the post of dragging an unlikely draw from a dismal performance.

The Welshmen, on the same day, were beaten 25-16 by Australia, but they have been buoyed by the effort of their forwards who had the better of the Wallabies pack.

Sharks tighthead Jannie du Plessis says the Boks are wary of the Welsh scrum and front-rowers Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones who caused them problems during last year’s British Lions tour.

“They are a settled combination, quality individuals, and it is going to be a tough test for us.”

Springbok lineout specialist Victor Matfield took the Irish lineout to pieces in Dublin, but the British Lion, Alun Wyn Jones, is in the Welsh second row and they will expect to take their own ball while they are looking to scavenging flank Mervyn Williams to beat Bok rookie Deon Stegmann at the breakdown.

Captain Matfield said that in dry conditions under the closed Millenium roof the Boks will “try more with the backs than we did in Dublin”.

“The teams and the media over here see us as a target because we finished last in the Tri-Nations and have written us off. But that has motivated us to show we can play rugby.”

The Springboks, more settled with Frans Steyn in midfield, will play a wider game, but their forwards still have the critical role to play in squeezing the life out of the opposition.

The Welsh are at their most dangerous when they have momentum and they will aim to break up the Bok structures. The Boks, in turn, plan to stop them at source, pressuring them at forward, knocking them over on the gain-line and preventing the backs — the slippery Shane Williams, teenager George North, Tom Shanklin, James Hook and Lee Byrne — running on to the ball.

Wales also have the abrasive, loud Mike Phillips at scrumhalf, and while he is probably the player the Boks detest most in world rugby, he will be a constant if noisy threat around the fringes.

Coach Warren Gatland said the Welsh had looked to take the Wallabies on up front but would be more expansive against the Boks and shift their forwards around.

The Springboks’ record against Wales is remarkable: just one loss in 24 Tests and seven successive victories in Cardiff.

They will be looking to produce the superb rugby of the first quarter against Ireland when they were threatening in the set pieces, drove strongly and used their big ball-carrying forwards to punch holes in the defences.

The South Africans are looking to be controlled, structured and direct; the Welsh plan to hurry and harry the Boks by playing quickly, putting pace on the ball.

The Springboks, if they can match the intensity of Dublin and their forwards again establish a bridgehead over the advantage line, will come away with a win.

But the closing moments — and late substitutions — in Dublin should be a warning.

 

TEAMS

Wales: 15. Lee Byrne, 14. George North, 13. Tom Shanklin, 12. James Hook, 11. Shane Williams, 10. Stephen Jones, 9. Mike Phillips, 8. Jonathan Thomas, 7. Martyn Williams, 6. Dan Lydiate, 5. Alun-Wyn Jones, 4. Bradley Davies, 3. Adam Jones, 2. Matthew Rees (captain), 1. Gethin Jenkins

Substitutes: 16. Huw Bennett, 17. Paul James, 18. Ryan Jones, 19. Andy Powell, 20. Richie Rees, 21. Andrew Bishop, 22. Chris Czekaj

South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Zane Kirchner, 22 Pat Lambie

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia).

 

On TV

Today’s international rugby fixtures:

Italy v Argentina, 4 pm – SSpt 5

Wales v South Africa, 4.30 pm – M-Net, SSpt 1

England v Australia, 4.30 pm – CSN, SSpt 2, SSpt HD

Ireland v Samoa, 4.30 pm – not televised

France v Fiji, 7 pm – SSpt 1

Scotland v New Zealand, 7.15 pm – CSN, SSpt 2

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