Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wales v South Africa Preview

Wales v South Africa. On paper it is possibly THE match of the Autumn Internationals. 

South Africa are arguably the second best team in the World after adding a flair behind their brutal pack. The Springboks are back to near their best and have the ability to humiliate any team that turn up and give anything but theyirall.
Wales are undergoing a similar resurgence. After a disappointing run of defeats, something clicked at half time in Dublin. On the day a fight back fell short, but in the long run it culminated in another Six Nations title and dominated the Lions.

Wales are on a high, ready to do battle and itching to draw blood against Southern Hemisphere opposition. It could be a close one, so let's break things down a little further.

Wales, South Africa, rugby, anthems

Front Row
Some of the world's finest packing down in a newly revitalised scrum that has replaced the hit with technique. Hookers may have to earn their stripes with the strike at the scrum.
Bismarck Du Plessis is considered to be the best hooker in the world and Wales will be weary of the ability of the Sharks' hooker.
Ritchie Hibbard is capable of as much ferocity as Du Plessis, as Joe Marler found out. Hibbard has finally shook off the doubts over fitness or ability to claim the Wales' 2 shirt.
Injury to baby Du Plessis, prop Jannie, means it's youth versus experience on one side of the scrum as Frans Malherbe makes his debut against 99 cap veteran Gethin Jenkins. There can be no questioning Jenkins' work in open play, but a few have raised doubts over his scrummaging ability. Malherbe has been around the South Africa squad for sometime and will thrive on the opportunity to prove himself.
It is the opposite side of the scrum where the mouth watering battle takes place with Adam Jones taking on Tendai Mtawarira. It's The Hairy Bear versus The Beast and Mtawarira is 1-0 up in the scary nickname stakes, but Jones tamed The Beast for the Lions in 2009. This is a battle that fans of the scrum will relish, two of the world's finest scrummagers head-to-head.

Bismarck, du Plessis, South Africa, New Zealand, Hooker, Tackle, Dan Carter, Sharks

Second Row
South Africa have always boasted strength in the boiler house; their World Cup winning team was built on Botha and Matfield as much as on Habana and Butch James. Eben Etzebeth is the new generation of Springboks second row; strong, powerful and yet graceful. He has the ability to carry well, tackle hard, disrupt the opposition and leap like a young Michael Jordan.
Opposite Etzebeth is Alun Wyn Jones. AWJ is slowing becoming a cult hero in Welsh rugby with his no nonsense style on the pitch, enhanced by the musings of rugby's favourite Buddhist Dai Lama.
Bradley Davies and Flip van der Merwe start as the other second rows and are capable of having an influence on the game. Both will want a big performance with hopes of clinging on to their starting spots.

Back Row
The prospect of another mouthwatering contest. Wales finally have their dynamic trio back in action and the timing could not be better. It's been over 17 months since they lined up together in a Wales shirt and their first test is certainly a resolute one. The Welsh backrow are a perfect balance of Lydiate's tackling, Warburton's jackling and Faletau's carries.
Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen are contenders for the best back row in the world with a blend of force and guile akin to the finest pugilist.  
Dan Lydiate, Wales, Flanker, Newport, Gwent, Dragons, Lions

Half Backs
Morne Steyne is a match winner in the true sense of the word. Whether it be his ability with ball in hand or from the kicking tee. Rhys Priestland returns to international rugby refreshed and revitalised from injury with the ability play on the gain line which is vital to Gatland's plan.
Another battle that will continue from the Lions tour four years ago at scrum half. Flourie du Preez and Mike Phillips was an excellent sideshow to what was a superb tour. Since then the South African moved to Japan whilst Phillips sought his fortune in France before being dismissed last month, meaning the Welshman may be a little sharper.

Wales will miss Jamie Roberts' direct and forceful style against the wall that is Jean de Villiers, but if Scott Williams performs he could cement his status of Welsh hero he built after his enemy defeating try at Twickenham.
Jaque Fourie will also need to prove his worth after a long international sabbatical and move to Japan. Fourie will have to hit the ground running in his return against Jonathan Davies who has continued improve his standing as one of the World's best centres and will have a great understanding with fellow Scarlet, Williams.
Scott Williams, England, try, Wales, Twickenham, Scarlets

Back Three
Leigh Halfpenny is fresh from being named World Player of the Year in France and has been near perfect for Wales. Under the high ball, in front of the posts or breaking the line Halfpenny is a well rounded fullback. Pat Lambie is an undoubted talent but has far more experience at 10 than 15, which Wales may exploit.
On the wings it's pure entertainment. Japan based JP Pietersen is a speedster with an eye for the try line whilst Liam Williams is an old fashioned player with more skill than patience. He has lit up the Scarlets attack and is ferocious in defence, a real gem if he keeps his cool.
The main event though is Bryan Habana and George North. Habana has raced a cheetah and an aeroplane, but North is an altogether different breed. A giant of a man who can reek havoc against the best of defences, he bagged 2 tries against the 'Boks on his debut as an 18 year old just 3 years ago. If there is to be magic it's likely to come from here.
Win the break down, win the set piece, win the game. Both sides will also need impeccable discipline with Halfpenny and Steyne on hand to punish any misdemeanours and numerous players on hand to exploit any lapses on concentration. If both teams play as we know they can it could be a classic encounter. My head says South Africa by 5-8 points, but my heart says Wales by a single score.

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