Wales will be no cakewalk

2013-11-09 00:00

THE battle-weary Springboks are looking to their hefty pack of forwards to squeeze the life out of a fresh, vigorous and talented Welsh in their international at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff tonight.

The mentally and physically drained Springboks, in their 10th month of rugby this year, will have to lift tired bodies to fresh heights to beat the Welsh, and their 11 British Lions, in front of their emotional and vocal home support this evening.

There has been some confusion this week over whether the Millennium Stadium will be closed or open. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer had wanted the pitch open to the elements, but Warren Gatland’s assistant, former British Lions scrumhalf coach Rob Howley, says the Test will be played indoors and the dry conditions will suit the Welsh and make for more spectacular viewing.

Meyer said he had wanted his players to meet the challenge of playing on a wet and heavy European surface ahead of the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015. But the real reason, surely, is that the heavy going would have bogged down the energetic Welshmen, keeping the ball closer to the Springboks’ big forwards.

Either way, Howley says it will be an arm wrestle: “That’s the nature of international rugby when two world-class outfits come together. The Welsh players are very enthusiastic as you should be for first game against one of the top sides in world rugby.

“When you see the Springbok side, it’s impressive. There are world-class players throughout … and what world- class players do is play under pressure — that’s going to be key to this Test.”

Former Springbok forward coach Gary Gold, who is now in charge at Bath, believes Wales lack the tough mental edge and this has cost them victory in their last four tightly-contested internationals against the Springboks.

The Welsh are convinced this is about to change with the confidence provided by the British Lions win over Australia in June, and the involvement of their coach Gatland , rubbing off on their players.

“The self-belief … after the Lions tour was huge,” said Howley. “You can see a difference in their mindset.

“The emotion from the players, in particularly the Lions players, has been different. There’s been a very positive mindset [after the win over Australia] and obviously they need to bring that in the national jersey against the Springboks.”

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers yesterday played down the British Lions factor, but said they were up against a polished Welsh outfit.

“We’re not playing the Lions, we’re playing Wales. It’s a big difference.

“You can take a lot out of the Lions series, but at the end of the day it’s not the same team and there are crucial players missing.

“In saying that, we believe the Welsh team are a quality side and that they’ll be up for this game.”

The Bok captain said the Springboks had improved in certain areas this year — “but we need to deliver on the field for 80 minutes”.

“We do know what we’re capable of and we’ve prepared well.”

The Boks, fielding a rookie in Frans Malherbe at tighthead, will come under pressure from the all-Lions front row of Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Gethin Jenkins in the scrums while the South Africans are looking to impose their physicality in the battle on the gainline.

De Villiers said the Boks also faced a challenge from the rush defence of the Welsh backs. Halves Fourie du Preez and Morné Steyn have important tactical roles to play, but their kicking, and the chase, will have to be spot-on if Leigh Halfpenny and the formidable George North are not to flourish on the counter.

In spite of the confidence in the Welsh camp, De Villiers is in positive mood.

“The Welsh have been speaking a lot this week [about the Lions triumph], but we also have a quality team. We want to show we have progressed this year. We are up for this Test match.”

They will have to be. The passionate Welsh, lifted by the massed choirs in the stands, are dangerous opponents and the Springboks, in looking to dull that enthusiasm and quality, face a massive test of their character and stamina in Cardiff tonight.


Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 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 Patrick 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.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).

Kick-off: 7.30 pm (SA time).

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.