South Africa v Wales preview: Dragons have work cut out to overcome formidable Springboks
Wales meet South Africa on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals: 4 pm kick off
Each side goes into the game having lost once during the group stage
Men in red are looking to reach second consecutive semi-final
Bryan Habana needs just one score to overtake Jonah Lomu’s RWC record of 15 tries
Wales take on South Africa in the first quarter-final of this year’s Rugby World Cup at Twickenham this afternoon.
The Springboks have looked imperious since that shock defeat to Japan in the opening round and are now the second highest try scorers at this World Cup with 23, just two behind New Zealand.
Heyneke Meyer, South Africa head coach, will be fully motivated to prove that their perceived team of old boys are more than capable of dominating on the grand stage. He has made just one change from the side that produced the biggest winning margin of this year’s competition so far with a 64-0 win over the USA.
Wales should beware, as that change sees Lwazi Mvovo replaced by the returning JP Pietersen. With nine tries between himself and opposite wing Bryan Habana already in this tournament, the Welsh defence will need to be at its very best.
Springbok wing Habana, in fact, equalled Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 Rugby World Cup tries against the USA, and he now needs just one more to stand alone as the most prolific try scorer in the history of the competition.
Warren Gatland, Wales head coach, has made three changes to the side that were narrowly beaten 15-6 by Australia in their Pool D decider.
Dan Lydiate returns at flanker and in doing so, the trio of himself, Sam Warburton and Taulupe Faletau become the back row combination with the most starts in Rugby World Cup history with this being their seventh.
Prop Gethin Jenkins returns in place of Paul James while Tyler Morgan starts at outside-centre, which allows George North to go back to his preferred position on the wing.
Players to Watch
Wales: Tyler Morgan
Set to earn just his third cap for Wales, young Tyler Morgan was just a week removed from being a teenager when the tournament kicked off. The Newport Gwent Dragons centre has starred for the national Under 20 side, and he could be set to do what compatriot George North did four years ago, and explode on the international stage.
South Africa: Handre Pollard
The fly-half is fifth in both the points tally and number of penalties scored in this year’s tournament. Pollard has kept his side ticking over, and against a side that they should find much harder to break down defensively, the Number 10 will need to be on point from the tee to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The head to head record between these sides does not make for great reading for the home nation, as South Africa have dominated proceedings with 27 wins to two, with one match drawn. Heyneke Meyer’s men have also flexed their muscle in the build up to this match with an avalanche of tries, compared to just 11 scored by Wales. The Springboks are still in the hunt for an unprecedented third World title, and they are overwhelming favourites to advance to the semis once again with a win here. Wales however have some fond memories of Twickenham, and they will take heart from the fact that they were victorious in the last meeting between these sides, winning 12-6 at home last year. The Red Dragon have also overcome plenty of adversity in this World Cup campaign, and they will relish this game with their backs against the wall once more.
Wales by 3
South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Damian De Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Handré Pollard, 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Schalk Burger, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Trevor Nyakane, 18. Jannie du Plessis, 19. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20. Willem Alberts, 21. Ruan Pienaar, 22. Pat Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein
Wales: 15 G Anscombe, 14 A Cuthbert, 13 T Morgan, 12 J Roberts, 11 G North 10 D Biggar, 9 G Davies, 1 G Jenkins, 2 S Baldwin, 3 S Lee, 4 L Charteris, 5 A W Jones, 6 D Lydiate, 7 S Warburton, 8 T Faletau
Replacements: 16 K Owens, 17 P James, 18 T Francis, 19 B Davies, 20 J Tipuric, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 R Priestland, 23 J Hook
Date: Saturday, October 17
Venue: Twickenham, London
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: George Clancy, JP Doyle
Television match official: Graham Hughes