Wales will be determined to draw their three-Test series against South Africa when these teams go head-to-head at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Wayne Pivac’s troops came agonizingly close to an upset in the series opener at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria last week, as they were the dominant team for long stretches, but, in the end, the home team held their ground to seal a narrow victory.
That result was significant for the Springboks as it means they are still unbeaten against Wales in their backyard and have now won all 11 games between these nations played in South Africa.
Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber has announced his squad changes for the matchday and is fielding what could best be described as an experimental squad for this fixture. In the starting XV, veteran second row Eben Etzebeth is the sole survivor of Loftus Versfeld’s running side with Malcolm Marx, Vincent Koch and Damian Willemse the only other Springbok players to be in action in that first Test.
Making so many changes is a huge gamble, but Nienaber believes his team will remain competitive and explained that he is looking to dig in ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.
It’s a big risk though, and legendary Wales and British and Irish Lions scrum-half Sir Gareth Edwards feels the Boks have disrespected their opponents by making so many substitutions.
Meanwhile, Wales have kept faith with most of their matchday side who did their duty in the opening test.
The entry of Alex Cuthbert as Josh Adams’ replacement at left wing is the only alteration for the starting squad and if they can be as competitive as they were in Pretoria, they could break the duck on South African soil.
What happened in the first Test
It was all Wales during the opening exchanges last week and they built an 18-3 half-time lead thanks to a pair of tries from Louis Rees-Zammit and a conversion, a penalty and a well-executed drop-goal from captain Dan Biggar. . . For the Boks, Elton Jantjies added a penalty during that period, but it was the main cause of his team’s problems and he was substituted at interval. The home team were more competitive in the second half and hit back with tries from Bongi Mbonambi and Marx with Willemse converting one of those and also hitting a penalty that meant Wales were up 18-15 in the 51st minute, before Biggar kicked two more kicks. penalties to give his team a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter. There was still plenty of drama to come and another five points from Cheslin Kolbe, which Willemse converted, and a penalty try gave the Boks a 29-24 lead. Despite being under pressure during the closing stages, and with two players in the bin, Wales equalized when Dewi Lake crossed for a try in the 77th minute, but Biggar was unable to add the extras. That proved costly as Willemse soon stepped forward to clinch a 32-29 stoppage-time triumph with a well-taken penalty.
what they say
Despite coming up short in the first Test in Pretoria, Wales got plenty of positives from the series opener and their lock, Will Rowlands, will be hoping for another chance with the Boks.
“There is a belief among us that we can still win the series. We were disappointed after the first test, but now we are excited about what we can do this weekend,” he said.
“I don’t really know what to expect in the second test, but I hope it will be more of the same. There really was a fantastic atmosphere in Pretoria and I felt very lucky to be a part of it.
“I hope it’s more of the same because playing in those big cauldrons of rugby full of passionate fans is ultimately what you want to do. I am really enjoying my rugby at the moment and may that continue for a long time.
“It would be nice to win the first game on South American soil and make a bit of history, but from my point of view, every time you play a test match, you take it as it comes. You just want to go out there and win.
“You don’t think about the story as the game progresses. We want to get a result because we are playing Test rugby and we are here to win”.
Meanwhile, France-based Boks front row Trevor Nyakane expects a tough challenge from the visitors.
“I’m very excited to be back here in Bloemfontein, it’s been a while,” he said.
“And as a team we are looking forward to it. Wales is a team that fights fire with fire, and we are aware of that.
“We know it’s going to be difficult, but just as they are going to do what they do best, we will try to do the same on our part.”
players to watch
The local fans will be attentive to the exciting number eight Evan Roos, which will take to the field in one of the most eagerly-awaited international debuts in recent years. The 22-year-old stole the Stormers’ show during their triumphant United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign as he made a huge impact with the ball in hand. Roos’ ability to get past the go-ahead line and break tackles was a big part of the Stormers’ success and it will be interesting to see if he can replicate that form at the test level, where the margins for error are much tighter.
Starting in the back row with Roos, he is a seasoned activist in Marcell Coetzee, who is set to play his first test for the Boks since being injured in a Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Argentina in 2019. Coetzee, who can play all three full-back positions, lines up on the open flank in this matchup and will be eager to transfer his excellent URC form for the Bulls to the international arena. The 31-year-old will not lack motivation to do well, as his call-up to Bok’s squad for the Welsh series came after he was overlooked several times in 2021 despite shining for the Bulls.
Another player who will be eager to impress for the home team is the utility full back. Kurt-Lee Arendse, who will also make his international debut after excellent performances with the Bulls at URC level. The former Springbok Sevens star is blessed with plenty of pace and can stomp with both feet, making him a real attacking threat. He is particularly dangerous for broken play and will surely test the Welsh defense if he finds himself in open space.
Meanwhile, Wales has a number of experienced campaigners in its setup and in Taulupe Faletau They own a graceful number eight that has consistently delivered excellent performances for their country for over a decade. The 31-year-old led Wales’s onslaught as a ball carrier in the first Test and finished that encounter with 37 meters gained from 11 runs that included two defenders beaten. He also did business as a defender and completed 11 tackles. Welsh fans will appreciate a similar effort.
Another player who took the fight to the Boks in Loftus is Will Rowland, who did justice to his reigning Welsh Player of the Year title with an excellent all-round performance that included 43 meters with the ball in hand and a match-high 16 shots taken in defence. Rowlands will be determined to start running those departments on Saturday while also making his presence felt at the lineouts.
After being ruled out of Wales’ Six Nations fixture against England earlier this year, there was a lot of pressure on the young Welsh midfielder. Louis Rees-Zammit but he has recovered from that setback and is doing well again on the running side. The 21-year-old was in fine form at Loftus Versfeld when he crossed for two attempts and finished that Test with 75 attacking meters that included four runs, two clean breaks and a defeated defender. That means he’ll be heavily marked by the Bok defenders at Bloemfontein, but he’ll be hard to stop once he’s got a steam head.
main face to face
After arguably his worst performance at international level, Jantjies has been dropped, meaning he is first choice at fly-half. Handre Pollard returns to the second place of the world champions and his duel with Wales Dan Biggar must be one of the highlights of this meeting. Both players’ game management skills are of a high standard and their duel could prove decisive in the larger scheme of things.
Pollard and Biggar both possess excellent skill sets and have the ability to bring out the best in those around them with their excellent playmaking ability, while also keeping the scoreboard going with accurate goal kicks. Both will be captaining their respective sides, which brings another dimension to the equation of this battle. They are expected to lead from the front while their decision-making will also be in the spotlight as it could decide the ultimate outcome of this game.
Although Nienaber has said that this is not a Springbok B team, there have been many changes and it will be interesting to see if they can continue along a similar line to their second-half performance in Pretoria against a Welsh side who have kept the changes in a minimum. Although the Boks will be competitive and push their opponents all the way, Wales will win by five points.
2022: South Africa won 32-29 in Pretoria
2021: South Africa won 23-18 in Cardiff
2019: South Africa won 19-16 in Yokohama (RWC)
2018: South Africa won 20-11 in Cardiff
2018: Wales won 22-20 in Washington DC
2017: Wales won 24-22 in Cardiff
2016: Wales won 27-13 in Cardiff
2015: South Africa won 23-19 in London (RWC)
South Africa: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Handre Pollard (c), 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Thomas du Toit
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Deon Fourie, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse
Welsh: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Dan Biggar (c), 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 Josh Adams
Date: Saturday, July 9
Event: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick off: 17:05 local time (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
OMT: Brett Cronan (Australia)
READ MORE: Dan Biggar: The Springboks haven’t disrespected Wales with team selection
The article South Africa v Wales Preview: Wayne Pivac’s men to stun the Springboks and level the series at Bloemfontein appeared first on Planetrugby.com.