RYAN VREDE, writing from Wellington, says the Springboks will win comfortably against Wales off the back of a dominant display by their forwards.
I enjoyed hearing Wales’ confidence this week. They are clearly not prepared to shirk the challenge of beating a team they’ve lost 12 consecutive games to and have only ever defeat once in their history. This with a squad shorn of some of their best forwards, including Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees, as well as experienced flyhalf Stephen Jones.
If the Springboks lose to this Wales side it will be an indictment on their capacity to defend their title. They won’t. Their superior forwards, despite the absence of Bakkies Botha, will ensure this.
Botha’s brutal physicality will be sorely missed in a match with such a focus on the forwards. Danie Rossouw is, however, a competent replacement, although he will have to escape the maze of mediocrity he finds himself trapped in at present. He isn’t as good a scrummager as his Bulls team-mate, and with Bismarck du Plessis playing off the wood as well, the Springboks can best hope for parity in this facet of play. It won’t be decisive to the outcome, as they are expected to boss all departments.
Wales simply don’t have the personnel to resist the Springboks’ key strike runners – Rossouw, Beast Mtawarira, Pierre Spies and Schalk Burger. Consider also that the Springboks are able to introduce the likes of Du Plessis and Willem Alberts off the bench. Their threat in this regard will be a sustained one. Wales’ capacity for a rebuttal is questionable, with a string of inexperienced and mediocre Test players among their reserves.
The Springboks’ replacements have made telling contributions in recent Tests against Wales, but not more so than goal-kickers, and Morne Steyn will be central to his team’s success once more, particularly in light of the their chronic struggles to score tries. The Springboks flyhalf will benefit from his forwards’ dominance in general play in so much as he will have the time and space to orchestrate their attack (in their territory this is likely to take the form of up-and-unders). However, it will be the pressure they exert at the gainline on attack and at the breakdown on defence that will grant him the opportunities to steadily build their lead through his prolific boot.
With regards to the latter, Heinrich Brussow will thrive, stifling Wales’ attacking flow and ensuring poor supply to young flyhalf Rhys Priestland. The slow recycle will see their back division’s potency significantly diluted and the Springboks will be too disciplined for Wales to steal a victory on penalties.
Vrede’s call: Boks by 12
Springboks – 15 Frans Steyn, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 CJ Van der Linde, 19 Johann Muller, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Butch James.
Wales – 15 James Hook, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun-Wyn Jones, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Paul James.
Subs: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Bradley Davies, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Tavis Knoyle, 21 Scot Williams , 22 Leigh Halfpenny.
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