Key Clash Preview and Prediction: Wales v South Africa

wyn jones
On Saturday evening the Millennium Stadium will play host to two of international rugby’s most muscular outfits. This is the first time the sides have met since the 2011 World Cup and Wales will be fully aware of their terrible record against the Springboks, having only beaten them once in the last 107 years. South Africa have only been beaten twice in 2013, both times by an impeccable New Zealand side, and after finishing second in the Rugby Championship, the visitors will be looking to leave Europe with nothing less than a clean sweep. Wales are coming off the back of a disappointing tour of Japan, but the touring party was more of a development squad and now Wales have all of their British and Irish Lions back as they attempt to maul some powerful Springboks.


Injuries have forced Warren Gatland to pick a fresh-faced backline. Liam Williams replaces Eli Walker, who suffered a hamstring injury in training on Thursday. Talisman Jamie Roberts is also unavailable due to an ankle injury. He will be replaced by Scott Williams who joins Scarlets teammate Jonathan Davies in the midfield.

Rhys Preistland is set to return at fly half, after recovering from the achilles injury that kept him out of the Six Nations. Mike Phillips retains the nine shirt despite being sacked by Bayonne last week. He is the obvious choice as he is known for his physicality and will look to go toe to toe with the South African pack.

Gatland boasts an embarrassment of back row riches as Dan Lydiate is joined by British and Irish Lions team mates Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau. Lydiate is back in a Wales shirt after a year-long absence due to injury, and will be called upon to chop down the big South African runners, with Warburton looking to slow down and steal Springbok ball. Justin Tipuric is on the bench and Gatland will look to utilise his searing pace against tired legs. Bradley Davies will pack down with the formidable Alun-Wyn Jones in the second row.

The Welsh front row also consists of three British and Irish Lions. Experienced prop Gethin Jenkins will look to exert pressure on new boy Frans Malberhe, as he is joined by Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones. Hibbard will go head to head with the world’s best hooker, Bismark Du Plessis, in what promises to be a thrillingly violent encounter.

South Africa

The Springboks travel to the Millennium stadium brimming with quality and experience. Heyneke Meyer has called up JP Pietersen and Jaque Fourie to join a backline already full of seasoned veterans. Stormers prop Malberhe will make his international debut at tight head after Jannie Du Plessis was ruled out of the tour because of a chronic shoulder injury.

South Africa will be looking to beat Wales at their own game. Their colossal pack is more than capable of outmuscling a Welsh side that prides itself on physicality. The Springboks boast a massive artillery with the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw in the back-row.

With the exception of Pat Lambie and Morne Steyn, the South African backline is identical to the one that started the 2007 world cup final. Time has certainly done little to dull a potent attacking outfit and with JJ Engelbrecht and the exhilarating Willie le Roux on the bench, the visitors are not short of influential substitutes.

All eyes on

Leigh Halfpenny was the star of the Lions tour but he will have to be at his very best to deal with the kicking nous of Steyn. But Wales have as much faith in his high-ball abilities as they do in his flawless goal kicking, and rightly so. Halfpenny’s expert positioning makes him nearly impossible to catch out. He is as ruthless in defence as he is effective in attack, his ability to pick a line and his acute sense of timing enabling him to glide through the strongest defences.

The infamous Eben Etzebeth will drive the Springbok pack with his brutish physicality and athletic dynamism. Expect Etzebeth to hammer anything in a red shirt and smash his way through their defence with ball in hand. Alun Wyn Jones and company will have to be at their best to ensure that the 22-year-old does not disrupt their lineout as the man mountain will undoubtedly be influential in the airways.

Head to head: George North v Bryan Habana

When picking a world XV, few would omit George North or Bryan Habana. On Saturday night these two will go head to head in a mouthwatering clash, as the Welsh powerhouse goes up against the speed and intuition of the Toulon winger. The return of Habana will lift the Boks. Their star man limped off to cut short the performance of his life against the All Blacks in October after devastating the world’s best defensive outfit, scoring two tries in the process. North is coming off the back of an impressive Lions tour and while there is no disputing his international prowess, he will know that he will be tested by one of the best on Saturday evening.


The Springboks will prove too powerful for Wales. If South Africa play with anywhere near the intensity they did against the All Blacks five weeks ago, Wales will be unable to live with them. The majority of the Welsh players have not played together since the Six Nations, while the visitors have been testing themselves against the best. Wales have bullied many international sides into submission but they will struggle to cope with the destructive capabilities of this colossal South African side. South Africa by 10.

By Nathan Hyde (@NathanHyde2)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

17 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview and Prediction: Wales v South Africa

  1. How can you say the majority of the Welsh players have not played together since the 6n when 10 of them lined up for the 3rd lion’s test?

    I’m not sure I would pick this so catagorically. Think it will be close.

  2. Depends which Wales team turns up.

    The one that whupped England – Wales win

    The one that lost to the Argies in last year’s Autumn games – SA win

    1. Pablito’s post got me thinking about scenarios.. I came up with 4, with SA coming out on top in 3 of those.. (these are just my opinions, obviously!)

      Wales at their very best v SA at their very best – SA win.

      Wales at their very best v Ordinary SA – Wales win.

      Ordinary Wales v Ordinary SA – Close, but a SA win.

      Wales that played in last years AI’s – SA big win.

      Of those, I think the third scenario is more likely, I don’t see SA bringing the same performance they produced against the All Blacks, and likewise, I don’t see Wales producing the same performance they managed against England.

      I don’t think it’ll be as clear cut as the author suggests, but I am expecting a SA win.

    2. Pablito, most of that side that lost to the Argies won’t be on the pitch, especially in the pack, which was –

      1-Gethin Jenkins, 2-Matthew Rees, 3-Aaron Jarvis, 4-Alun Wyn Jones, 5-Ian Evans, 6-Josh Turnbull, 7-Sam Warburton (capt), 8-Toby Faletau

      So no Lyds/Tipuric, no Adam Jones (that’s crucial), etc. Half of that pack has gone, we’ve got 4 better players in imo.

      However, this doesn’t mean I’m predicting a Wales win. This is undoubtedly the strongest Wales 22 we’ve seen for a couple of decades (even without Cuthbert/Roberts). Unfortunately it comes up against what could be the second best team we’ve ever seen in world rugby. I’m hoping for a massive performance, something to give Wales something to move forward from so we can get to the point where we can go into these matches and win them.

      1. Also shouldn’t forget that Warren was off with the Lions I suppose. Trying to give myself a reason for confidence but I can’t find anything other than blind optimism. So I’m going to go with that as moping around for the next 24 hours due to expecting a beating tomorrow is too depressing. I’m sure that by the time I get to the stadium I’ll be full expecting a triumphant victory.

        1. Point taken Brighty (though think Tipuric was on the bench) but that team should still have beaten the Argies at home (even though they’ve improved a lot)

          That team just didn’t seem half as committed as the one that ran out to face England, And if they play without full commitment against SA, they are going to get stuffed, with or without Adam Jones

  3. I’ve just picked Wales to win on SuperBru. They’ll need to front up in the pack and not shy away from the physical challenge (rather than avoid the confrontation as some people would suggest), but they have the personnel to do that. They may even have a slight edge in the front row, although the breakdown will be key, and Lambie could be vulnerable out of position at full-back.

    You need a lot of nous to beat the Boks, and I’m hoping Gatland has a plan up his sleeve!

  4. Am expecting a SA win but put it in for a 5 point margin as I think that Wales will keep it close, but can’t see them winning as SA do the physical Warrenball type rugby better than any other team in the world. However it is at home for Wales so should be close. Can’t see Wales bringing the same level of performance to the SA game as they did against England, as us Anglo Saxons always seem to bring out the best in our Celtic cousins for some odd reason!

      1. Thought you might appreciate that, although wasn’t sure whether I ought to say bring out “the worst” ;-)

        1. Wandering wildly of course here (it is Friday after all), the use of the labels of Celts, and Anglo-Saxons does amuse me, not because of the obvious grey areas of the likes of North, Faletau, Vunipola and Corbisiero, but because the reality today is that all of us are likely to be something of a mixture.

          I am half welsh/half english, with my English heritage from Cornwall, which of course is more Celtic, than Angle or Saxon, Jute or Norman. In fact, post Norman conquest, I do wonder how much Anglo-Saxon there remains in any English people.

          Further, the Bretons (Celts) and French made up the majority of the Norman invaders, so we’re likely all a lot more related than the Welsh Britons (Celts) would like to know :-)

          Troubling that the French seem to have crept in as well though….

          So, Cuthbert, Warburton and Halfpenny are likely no more of Celtic extraction than Cipriani, Burns and Yarde are Anglo-Saxon.

          Oh right, yes, this is a Rugby site – back to work….

  5. I’m going with SA by 7. Wales get better with time together, so just think this is a fixture or 2 too early.

    If the Ospreys in the pack continue to suffer from a Lions hangover or if Philips decides to ‘take on’ Alberts in the same way he took on Mowen then it could be a wider margin.

    1. Good point about Philips. Mowen had a field day with him and as you say, if he tries it with Alberts its going to be much worse…

  6. Thank you for the feedback guys.

    Benjit, I was referring to the overall squad.

    Bakkies 4, it is being shown on Welsh channel S4C at 5pm. It’s is available on Sky. They usually have an English commentary option too.

  7. BBC have it not sky bbc 2 that is . Can’t quite get my head around that second best team ever seen comment re the boks.Hardly in the South African top 10 teams of all time really until they win something . Hedging my bets and gone for a South African win anyway on superbru so at least if wales lose I’ll get a very very tiny silver lining out of it . I’d sacrifice that for a welsh win of course in which case would the boks be 1 of the 2 worst South African sides ever seen? ;-)

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