Preview: Wales v South Africa

A Wales side low on confidence will host a vulnerable yet unpredictable Springbok team in Cardiff on Saturday.

Both teams have endured a difficult November series, but Wales will still be favourites to finish the year on a high note. They were poor in going down 32-8 to Australia and had to dig deep for narrow victories over Argentina (24-20) and Japan (33-30), but at least they were able to won while playing poorly.

South Africa can’t say the same. A desperate draw against the Barbarians was followed by a first defeat in 10 years to England before Italy added to coach Allister Coetzee’s woes by beating the Boks 20-18 last week in Florence.

If ever the Boks were there for the taking, surely now is the time. Rob Howley have gone for continuity in selection by making only one change from the team which beat Japan.

Coetzee, on the other hand, have made six changes and handed out four debuts after the Italy humilation. In a way, Coetzee has transferred all the pressure on Wales to win this one considering the inexperience of the Bok team.

For South Africa, Saturday presents one last chance to improve their position on the world rankings before the draw for the next World Cup is made in May next year. The Boks are currently fifth and if they remain outside the top four come May they will likely be drawn in a so-called “group of death” with one of the top four teams.

Wales are just behind South Africa in sixth, but still have the 2017 Six Nations to try and move up the rankings.

Coetzee has rolled the dice with his selections for this game and will hope for a miracle from his young side, while Howley will be looking to build momentum ahead of the Six Nations.

Players to watch: 

For Wales: Ross Moriarty has been in fine form and his physicality will test the new look loose trio of South Africa. Moriarty is a good ball carrier and it will be interesting to see him go up against Warren Whiteley, who is not the most physical player but can come good if the game opens up.

For South Africa: Rohan Janse van Rensburg finally gets his Test debut after a fine season for the Lions. The big inside centre got a taste of international rugby in South Africa’s tour opener against the Barbarians where he impressed on defence and attack and also scored the try which secured a draw for his side. The Boks will be counting on his physical presence in a very inexperienced backline.

Head-to-head: George North is one of the most physical wingers in world rugby and will offer a stern examination of debutant Jamba Ulengo‘s defensive capabilities. Ulengo has the opportunity to make a name for himself here, but North is vastly experienced and is sure to keep the South African back three busy. Wales would be wise to get the ball to him early and often to test the Bok’s fragile defence.

Previous results:

2015: South Africa won 23-19 in London (RWC)
2014: Wales won 12-6 in Cardiff
2014: South Africa won 31-30 in Nelspruit
2014: South Africa won 38-14 in Durban
2013: South Africa won 24-15 in Cardiff
2011: South Africa won 17-16 in Wellington (RWC)
2010: South Africa won 29-25 in Cardiff
2010: South Africa won 34-31 in Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 20-15 in Cardiff
2008: South Africa won 37-21 in Pretoria
2008: South Africa won 43-17 in Bloemfontein

Prediction: Both teams are are out of form and low on confidence. Wales have the stronger, more experienced team and are playing at home. South Africa will try their best but Wales should clinch this one by 7-10 points.

The teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Jamie Roberts

South Africa: 15 Johan Goosen‚ 14 Ruan Combrinck‚ 13 Francois Venter‚ 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg‚ 11 Jamba Ulengo‚ 10 Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Faf de Klerk‚ 8 Warren Whiteley‚ 7 Uzair Cassiem‚ 6 Nizaam Carr‚ 5 Lood de Jager‚ 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 3 Lourens Adriaanse‚ 2 Adriaan Strauss (c)‚ 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx‚ 17 Steven Kitshoff‚ 18 Trevor Nyakane‚ 19 Franco Mostert‚ 20 Jean-Luc du Preez‚ 21 Piet van Zyl‚ 22 Pat Lambie‚ 23 Lionel Mapoe

Date: Saturday, November 26
Venue: Principality Stadium
Time: 17:30 local (19:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner (England), Tom Foley (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)