Our rugby scribe previews Saturday's Test between Wales and South Africa.
The horror show that has been 2016 will come to an end for Allister Coetzee and his charges in Cardiff this Saturday. The ‘Bok mentor is under huge pressure with the South African rugby public voicing their concerns over his coaching ability. Wales have also had a poor November with a 24 point defeat to Australia being followed up with two unconvincing victories over Argentina and Japan.
With the 2019 World Cup draw on the near horizon and both of these sides ranked outside the world’s top four teams, this game could prove to be an extremely significant fixture.
Wales v South Africa | Principality Stadium | Saturday 26 November | 19:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Wales 11/20 | Draw 20/1 | South Africa 15/10
Wales (-4.5) 9/10 | South Africa (+4.5) 9/10
It hasn’t been the Dragons' finest Autumn, but it must be remembered that there have been mitigating factors to their sub-par showings including the absence of head coach, Warren Gatland. While Gatland has been off keeping tabs on potential British and Irish Lions squad members, his former assistant coach, Rob Howley, has taken over the reins.
Unfortunately for Howley, he hasn’t been able to inspire the same fire and passion in this Welsh squad as Gatland has done in the past. His players have looked rather lacklustre at times and really need a good old proverbial kick up the backside.
I was unable to watch Wales’ last game against Japan but it seems the Dragons had their backs against the ropes for the majority of it and were bailed out by a late drop kick from substitute Sam Davies.
While a three-point victory over Japan isn’t the best way to prep for a game against one of the Rugby Championship sides, it is still a lot better than coming off the back of a defeat to Italy; a position their opponents find themselves in.
I do wonder if Howley will be tempted to make a few changes after last week’s last-minute victory over Japan. Winger Alex Cuthbert has struggled for form in recent weeks and could make way for fellow big man George North. I would personally like to see Keelan Giles given a run instead of North but the youngster’s lack of experience is likely to count against him when Howley mulls over his team selection.
Further Welsh changes are likely to see Dan Biggar and Gareth Davies return to the starting halfback berths, while veteran prop Gethin Jenkins should come back into the front row to replace Nicky Smith.
After last week’s debacle at the Stadio Artemio Franchi – and I’m not talking about the shocking pitch conditions here – Allister Coetzee could find himself joining a queue at one of Cape Town’s unemployment centres in the not too distant future. While I’m not going to lay the blame solely at the former Western Province and Stormers mentor’s feet - not one of his players have covered themselves – he does need to take at least 60 percent of the blame here.
While there's no doubting Coetzee’s coaching credentials, he was part of the 2007 Springbok coaching team that guided the ‘Boks to their second World Cup, after all - but his tenure has reeked of naivety. He allowed his team to be caught out against England by a move that he watched Eddie Jones incorporate into the 2007 Springbok playbook. He then sent his charges out against Italy the following week with no specific game plan in mind. And lo and behold, after 80-minutes of piss poor rugby, the Springboks had succumbed to the Italians for the first time in history.
I would generally begin this segment with a good “so what now for Coetzee and his charges?’ I’m so far past this point, however, that I really don’t see any future for Coetzee. I do hope he manages to get a win over Wales this weekend as it would be nice for him to bow out on somewhat of a high note - assuming SARU do the right thing and axe him.
It looks like he will give a few youngsters a run this weekend which, in all honesty, should have been done months ago. Whether this will save him his job is up for debate. The one thing that is for sure, though, is that these young guns will offer a lot more intensity than their older counterparts.
Speaking of young guns, it looks like we're set to see Lions Rohan Janse van Rensburg get his long overdue Test debut. The youngster gave a good account of himself against the Barbarians last month and should give the Welsh pairing of Roberts and Davies a real test.
The Stats That Matter
The ‘Boks have a healthy record against the Welsh winning five out of the last six games between the sides. The only blemish on that record came in 2014 where South Africa lost a low scoring affair by six points.
The ‘Boks have only managed to win four games this year while the Welsh have also only managed four victories.
Three of the last four games have seen the combined total score cross the forty point mark with the highest scoring game coming in 2014 where South Africa ran out 31-30 victors.
Verdict:South Africa 15/10
I fancy the 'Boks here. Yes, they're in horrific form but so are the Welsh. There's nothing left to lose for the 'Boks and the youngster that come into the fray should provide the necessary intensity that they has been lacking.