Date: 11th September 2011
Time: 09:30 BST (20:30 NZST)
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Results-wise Wales had a very positive warm-up prior to leaving for New Zealand. In terms of the actual performance though, there continue to be glaring flaws in the Welsh game, in particular an inability to retain ball. Yet those August matches have to be taken for what they were, warm-ups. As the hosts know, almost too well, World Cups are all about peaking at the right time. Arguably, only in 2003 has a Welsh side ever hit their stride, just at the right time during rugby’s show piece event. Warren Gatland’s side will be under no illusions of the challenge they face against a massively experienced Springbok side.
Since the Boks won the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2007, it’s fair to say, to a certain extent, that they have slipped down world rugby’s pecking order, at least some way behind Southern Hemisphere rivals Australia and New Zealand. Judging their Tri-Nations form is very difficult. As ever with coach Pieter De Villiers it was a case of smoke and mirrors. The oddball coach opted to rest nearly all front line players for the opening away legs of the tournament. After a scrappy defeat to the Wallabies on home soil, and a narrow win over a second-string All Blacks XV, the Springboks’ cup hopes have been written off, by most pundits and supporters in world rugby.
What to expect:
With South Africa you are guaranteed a physical confrontation. De Villiers has picked a simply monstrous pack. How Wales counter this will decide how the game pans out. Their game plan will most likely be about containing the Boks up front and playing with genuine expanse, potentially off limited scraps of possession. If Wales are still in the game with an hour on the clock, their new fitness levels may lead to something special. But that’s a big if.
All eyes on:
Having produced the best rugby of his career against them on tour with the Lions in 2009, Mike Phillips’ relish of duelling with South African back row forwards, is likely to make him the go-to man for Wales.
South Africa will be looking to John Smit to provide some justification for his inclusion. Despite all logic pointing towards Bismarck Du Plessis taking over as first choice hooker, the captain has been given the nod to lead from the front.
Head-to-head: Sam Warburton v Heinrich Brüssow
Having been lauded by the British and Irish press as the form openside in world rugby, Welsh captain Warburton faces a stern test of those credentials. Brüssow is arguably even ahead of Richie McCaw when it comes to the breakdown.
Last Fixture: Wales 25 South Africa 29, Saturday 13th November 2010
Weather Forecast: Overcast and rain.
There is undoubtedly a freshness about Wales at the moment, a freshness that has created a lot of optimism that a South African team, apparently in decline, are there for the taking in Wellington on Sunday morning. In reality though the Boks’ are a team who traditionally rise to the occasion of the World Cup, and I think they will be the more clinical of the two sides. South Africa by 12