South Africa vs. Wales: 5 Bold Predictions for Durban Test
Wales go in search of their first ever win over the Springboks in South Africa when they run out in Durban on Saturday.
The southern hemisphere superpowers have had Warren Gatland’s number in recent years. The Boks are searching for that extra 10 per cent to reach the level of the All Blacks, while Welsh observers are waiting to see if Gatland’s pledge to alter his team’s style at the end of the Six Nations will come to pass.
WalesOnline.co.uk columnist and former Wales skipper Gwyn Jones wrote:
Gatland signed off this season’s championship by signalling that a change in philosophy was needed as teams had begun to prevent Wales from playing their pattern.
Indeed there seemed to be a different flavour to Wales’ creative play in their final match against Scotland. Liam Williams countered from full-back, the ball went wide from deep positions and there was a less structured approach generally.
That was against a woeful 14-man Scottish side but nonetheless in the days that followed there was an acknowledgement from the coach that sides had begun to work out Wales and some tinkering needed to be done to the hitherto successful game plan.
This match perhaps represents Wales’ best chance on the tour. Durban sits at sea level. The home side are not without their problems, particularly in midfield. Wales, missing only one or two front-line men, must sniff their chance.
Here we predict what will happen.
1. Roberts Will Ride Roughshod over New Boy
The Springboks have picked 21-year-old Jan Serfontein at inside centre in place of the injured Frans Steyn.
Jamie Roberts will be keen to test the young man’s defensive ability.
Roberts will be regularly sent storming down Serfontein’s channel to put Wales on the front foot and bust some holes in the home side’s rearguard.
This is master versus apprentice—master to win.
Outside that battle, we see another Lion in Jonathan Davies go up against JP Pietersen.
Fine player though he is, Pietersen is more accustomed to patrolling the wing and could get caught out by Davies’ ability to drift on to a pass in the outside channel.
2. Du Preez to Get Man of the Match
When he came back from retirement in 2013, Fourie du Preez looked like he had never been out of a Springbok jersey.
For all Aaron Smith’s pace and Mike Phillips’ power, du Preez is the complete package as a No. 9, still with enough speed to pose a threat at the base and blessed with the skill and intelligence to unlock defences, find space and turn a game for his team.
Place your bets on du Preez for man of the match.
3. North to Bully New Boy Hendricks
Another newcomer to the Springbok ranks is wing Cornal Hendricks.
The Cheetahs man has the unenviable job of marking George North in his first Test.
Much like Jamie Roberts in the midfield, North has the opportunity to smash holes in the Boks’ rearguard against a player who will perhaps be unsure how best to deal with him.
4. Brits to Break the Game Open
Comparing each bench perhaps gives the strongest indication as to who will come on strong in the latter stages of this game.
Any side who can throw on Schalk Burger, Tendai Mtawarira, Ruan Pienaar and Schalk Brits would back themselves to be able to command the final few stanzas of a contest.
In Brits, Heyneke Meyer has armed himself with arguably the best impact substitute in world rugby. Saracens fans will testify as to his game-breaking ability with ball in hand.
He can run like a centre and tackle like a dump truck.
Against tiring legs, Brits will make a big impact.
5. Jones to out-Scrummage Steenkamp
In what will be his 100th Test appearance, expect Adam Jones to be up for this one.
The South Africans pride themselves on their forward power and have the strength and experience to get the better of any pack in world rugby, especially now with Victor Matfield reinstalled as captain.
However, in the front row, they face two Lions props in Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.
On the tighthead side, Jones has shown he can get the better of any opponent. That includes Gurthro Steenkamp, the man he faces this weekend.
This battle could prove decisive, and I’m tipping Jones to edge it.