The Springboks will wrap up their slightly disconcerting tour of Italy and the British Isles this Saturday with what is certain to be a cracker of clash in Cardiff against the notoriously mettlesome Welsh. The Springboks will, of course, be looking to end off a relatively successful season with an impressive seventeenth consecutive win over the Red Dragons. But truth be told, the Springboks will return home from their tour with more questions than answers, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s Test. Two mesmerising performances in the final rounds of the illustrious Rugby Championship against the Wallabies and the All Blacks led one to believe the Springboks were as close as they’ve been to the complete package for some years now. A month later a significantly depleted Irish side ran circles around their overconfident guests, exposing gaping holes in several areas of the Springbok game. They bounced back with a messy win over the English that really could have gone the other way, and struggled to gain control of last week’s clash against fourteenth seeded Italy.
Gasconader coach Warren Gatland is feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday’s showdown, with the media relentlessly attacking his dismal record against the SANZAR nations, with just one victory, against Australia back in 2008, out of his 27 clashes against the three Tier 1 sides from the Southern Hemisphere since he took over in 2007. The Welsh fell just short of another win over the Aussies three weeks back, going down 28-33, but bounced back with a 17-13 victory over Fiji a week later. And they certainly proved a far more vexing opponent than the All Blacks had anticipated in last week’s thrilling clash, and had the All Blacks trailing with just twelve minutes left on the clock. But a lack of composure in the dying minutes allowed a ferocious All Black attack to crash over the whitewash three times, leaving the scoreboard to tell a very different story, the game wrapping up at 16-34 to the Kiwis.
To Win (80mins)
South Africa 4/10
Wales (+6.5) 9/10
South Africa (-6.5) 9/10
Warren Gatland has made three changes to the side that lost to the All Blacks last weekend. Northampton speedster George North has been ruled out with what Gatland described as a “severe laceration” and will be replaced by Scarlets fullback Liam Williams, a selection the Springboks will surely welcome seeing how it was Williams that conceded the late penalty try in Nelspruit back in June, denying Wales a historic first win on South African soil. The other changes take place in the front row, with Paul James and Richard Hibbard having to return for club duty as the official Test window is now closed, with veteran loosehead Gethin Jenkins and Ospreys hooker Scott Baldwin to slot into the run on side.
The Springboks have also been affected by the closing of the Test window and will have to do without the services of Bryan Habana, Johan Goosen and JP Pietersen. They are replaced in the backline by the vigorous Willie le Roux at fullback, and the evasive wing duo of Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo. In the front row crowd favourites Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis return to the run on side. Pat Lambie runs out for a third consecutive start at flyhalf, and teams up once again with his Shark team mate Cobus Reinach.
VERDICT: South Africa (-6.5) 9/10
Should be a close game , but the Welsh wheels will inevitably fall off in the final quarter, which should allow the South Africans enough time to clear the handicap.
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