Wales v South Africa preview: Springboks to continue Cardiff winning streak

Jared Wright
Wales captain Jac Morgan, Springboks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and captain Siya Kolisi

Wales captain Jac Morgan, Springboks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and captain Siya Kolisi

The new chapter of the Wales versus South Africa rivalry will be written on Saturday when the two sides clash at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

While these sides are not your traditional rivals, the recent history between the two teams has made this encounter a feisty affair, usually resulting in an arm-wrestle and close scorelines.

Just thrice in the last 10 meetings between them has the victors prevailed by more than seven points, with the Springboks leading the head-to-head 6-4.

While South Africa won on their last two visits to Cardiff (2018 and 2021), those victories came off the back of four straight defeats between 2014 and 2018.

This clash is billed as a World Cup warm-up match, and while there is obvious respect between the two sides, it will be far from friendly.

Where the game will be won

The battle on the gain line will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome, but that will matter little if Wales cannot get parity in the set-pieces and secure possession on their own ball.

In Wales’ first game against England, the lineout did not miss a beat, securing their own throw on all eight occasions, pinching six off England. However, in the reverse fixture at Twickenham, the stats were mirrored as England won all eight of their lineouts and stole six off Wales.

Even with Franco Mostert on the bench and Lood de Jager sidelined, Warren Gatland’s charges will face a stern test in securing their own lineout ball, never mind the scrums.

The Boks are back to full compliments in the front-row with Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe in the starting XV and Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche and Vincent Koch on the bench.

Gatland has thrown Cardiff duo Corey Domachowski and Keiron Assiratti in the deep end earning just their second Test caps, but if they can front up against the imposing Bok front-row, they will give their side a good chance of winning the Test.

Last time they met

What they said

Wales head coach Gatland expects an accurate performance from the Springboks and urged his side to be solid from the get-go.

“We are expecting confidence and physicality from South Africa. They don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Gatland said.

“But we’ve got a great chance to go out there in front of a home crowd and produce some of the good things that we did in both the games against England.

“We just need to make sure we play for 80 minutes and are accurate for 80 minutes.”

Springboks lock Jean Kleyn said that the Springboks have been impressed by Wales’ performances against England.

“They have good individual players, and when you bring them all together under a coach like Warren Gatland, they form a quality team,” said Kleyn.

“They come off a good win at home against England and a tight away defeat, so we are impressed by them, and we know we are in for a tough outing.”

The second-rower also shot down suggestions that the clash was merely a preparation match: “As players, we don’t look at any match as a warm-up game. For us, every weekend is the biggest match of your life because you are representing your country.”

Players to watch

With Ken Owens ruled out and Dewi Lake and Ryan Elias in doubt over their injuries, all of a sudden, Elliot Dee has the opportunity to lock down the starting number two jumper for Wales. The 29-year-old Dragons hooker enjoyed a solid 74-minute shift in the home match against England, shining defensively, and he was flawless at lineout time.

Joining Dee in the pack is Dragons teammate Aaron Wainwright, who produced a lively all-action performance last time out in Cardiff. The 25-year-old looks like a nailed-on selection for the World Cup, and even with Taulupe Faletau’s return on the horizon, Wainwright is pressing for a permanent role in the starting loose trio.

It’s seemingly do-or-die for Wales’ starting wingers on Saturday as Rio Dyer and Alex Cuthbert have one final opportunity to make the World Cup squad. They face the in-form Springbok wingers Cheslin Kolbe and Canan Moodie, making their task of starring all the more difficult and, at the same time, entertaining.

As for the Springboks, RG Snyman earns his first start in Green and Gold since the 2019 World Cup pool stage match against Canada. The gigantic lock has endured a torrid run of injuries but made appearances off the bench in all three Rugby Championship fixtures this year. The 28-year-old has a brilliant offloading game while he has seemingly taken his lineout duties up a few notches.

Meanwhile, it is a first start in 2023 for scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse. The talented half-back looked to have taken possession of the starting number nine jersey last year before injury struck and is now back to press his claim after being named in the World Cup squad. He has an excellent kicking game, and is capable of taking the Springboks’ attack up a few gears.

After a superb game against Argentina, 20-year-old flyer Canan Moodie earns back-to-back starts for the Springboks. The youngster was somewhat of a surprise inclusion in the World Cup squad, despite his starring display against Los Pumas, and now he has the chance to prove himself at one of rugby’s finest cathedrals, the Principality Stadium.

Main head-to-head

A box-office clash of Oppenheimer proportions awaits us between captains Jac Morgan and Siya Kolisi.

The former is rapidly building his reputation on the international stage, while the latter completes his miraculous injury recovery.

The pair have vastly similar all-round games thriving on the ball, off it and at the breakdown with the bonus of being leaders.

For Kolisi, the Welsh captain provides an excellent marker as to how far away from his best he is as he looks to gain match fitness ahead of the World Cup.

Morgan was ruthlessly effective last time out, and we expect the same level of performance and competitiveness from the 23-year-old.

Previous results

2022: South Africa won 30-40 in Cape Town
2022: Wales won 13-12 in Bloemfontein
2022: South Africa won 32-29 in Pretoria
2021: South Africa won 23-18 in Cardiff
2019: South Africa won 19-16 in Yokohama (RWC)
2018: South Africa won 20-11 in Cardiff
2018: Wales won 22-20 in Washington DC
2017: Wales won 24-22 in Cardiff
2016: Wales won 27-13 in Cardiff

Prediction

As is customary with Wales and Springbok Test matches, this is bound to be a close encounter. The Boks have named a more experienced side, and we expect that will play in their favour leading to a win by 12 points.

The teams

Wales: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Jac Morgan (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Louis Rees-Zammit

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Duane Vermeulen, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Damian Willemse

Date: Saturday, August 19
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15:15 BST (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Eoghan Cross (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

READ MORE: Wales v Springboks: Five team selection talking points ahead of the World Cup warm-up