Preview: South Africa v Wales

Date published: June 23 2014

South Africa head into Saturday's Test against Wales in Nelspruit brimming with confidence after impressing in Durban last weekend.

South Africa head into Saturday's Test against Wales in Nelspruit brimming with confidence after an impressive display in Durban last weekend.

The Boks were in a rampant mood, especially during the first half when they dominated their opponents for large periods.

But Wales are a proud rugby nation who delivered a better performance in the second half and they will look to bounce back this weekend by building on the way they finished in Durban.

It's a momentous game for Springbok captain Victor Matfield, who will break his country's appearance record – he shares with John Smit – when he runs out for the 112th time in green and gold.

The man who is regarded by many as the game's best-ever line-out exponent is joined in the second row by Bulls team-mate Flip van der Merwe while Beast Mtawarira comes into the front row alongside fellow Sharks Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis for the 13th time – one game short of the record held -by Smit, Os du Randt and Eddie Andrews.

A big part of the Boks' success in Durban – and their first Test of the season against the World XV in Cape Town – was the performance of their back row.

Number eight Duane Vermeulen as well as flankers Willem Alberts and Francois Louw had a field day with ball in hand but were also prepared to graft, especially on defence and in the loose.

Full-back Willie le Roux played a near-perfect Test and inside centre Jan Serfontein will also be satisified, after impressing in his first start at this level but a player who will look for an improved effort is Serfontein's midfield partner JP Pietersen.

The Sharks stalwart has played most of his rugby on the wing and is still finding his feet as a Test centre. He held his own against Wales' British and Irish Lions' duo of Jamie roberts and Jonathan Davies but will look to improve – particularly on attack – this weekend.

Unlike previous seasons under coach Heyneke Meyer there has not been signs of rustiness in the Boks' opening Tests and they have hit the ground running.

Meyer, however, is not getting carried away and wants more from his troops and believes beating Wales will set them off in the right direction.

“What we've achieved up to now is great, but we still want to improve,” he said .

“I think we are on the right track, but again we always want to stay humble and there are areas that we want to improve.”

Meyer praised his team but wants 2014 to be even better than 2013 when they lost just two matches – to New Zealand – in the entire year.

“Don't take it the wrong way, we scored almost four tries per game last year and that was against the best teams in the world, and it was home and away,” Meyer said.

“We won eight matches on the trot away from home, we scored three against Wales away from home and they didn't score any tries, two tries were disallowed against France otherwise it was four tries.

“But there are always high hopes from the people and expectations from the Boks.”

After being comprehensively outplayed in most departments, the visitors will be motivated by the fact that they are yet to experience a win against the Springboks on South African soil.

But claiming that elusive win is no easy task and if one considers that Warren Gatland's charges are on this tour minus stalwarts like regular skipper Sam Warburton, fellow tearaway Justin Tipuric, and ace full-back and first-choice goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny then it's unlikely that that record will change this weekend.

This will be the second time a Test will be played at the Mbombela Stadium after the Springboks beat Scotland here last year.

On that day, the playing surface took a pounding after Samoa and Italy played in the match before, while the sticky and heavy pitch slowed down the pace.

That should not be an issue this time around and the 3pm kick-off could also play into the Springboks' hands as the heat could further tire the Welsh down.

But despite that and last weeks defeat, Gatland said there were positives they could take from the match and called for greater continuity from his charges.

“We've got to be prepared in the first 20 to 30 minutes when South Africa do come at you,” he said.

“We're really happy with the way we started the game and the way we created opportunities early on and took three points but we then just switched off.”

Springbok full-back Willie le Roux ran amok in last weekend's match where he had a hand in all five of South Africa's tries.

It didn't help the visitors' cause that they also conceded 14 points during Roberts spell in the sin bin for an illegal challenge on le roux.

“Willie le Roux caused us some problems – our line speed was way down on what it should be, so we've given them ball,” explained Gatland.

“It was difficult when we were down to 14 men, we weren't coming down the line aggressive enough, which was difficult for the tighties (tight forwards) going from defensive ruck to defensive ruck.”

Several experienced Wales players delivered less than satisfactory performances in Durban and must improve if the 2011 World Cup semi-finalists want to stand a chance of turning the tables on their host.

Senior players like captain Alun Wyn Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips will be expected to lead from the front while inexperienced team-mates like Josh Turnbull and Samson Lee will be determined to make the most of their opportunities in the run-on side.

Players to watch:

For South Africa: Big number eight Duane Vermeulen will be highly motivated as he returns to his hometown for the first time in Springbok colours. Vermeulen is difficult to stop, once he builds up a head of steam with ball in hand, and doesn't shy from the physical aspects of the game, especially on defence. Despite his size, the Stormers stalwart is also adept at the breakdowns and don't be surprised if he poaches some of Wales' balls at the rucks.

For Wales: After playing second fiddle to Jan Serfontein last weekend, Jamie Roberts will be out to prove a point this weekend. The hard running Racing Metro midfielder is expected to get Wales over the advantage line and after an ineffective display in that department, and a yellow card, in Durban he will be out to redeem himself with a solid performance.

Head-to-head: After a disappointing display in Durban, Wales' veteran prop Adam Jones has been replaced by run-on debutant Samson Lee, who faces off in the scrums against Beast Mtawarira. 21-year-old Lee is a strong scrummager whose task of anchoring the visitors' set-piece will be severly test by Mtawarira, who knows all the tricks in the book after representing his country in 54 Tests.

Previous Results:
2014: South Africa won 38-16 in Durban
2013: South Africa won 25-14 in Cardiff
2011: South Africa won 17-16 in Wellington
2010: South Africa won 29-25 in Cardiff