South Africa v Wales: Five talking points ahead of the series decider including the milestone men and stopping Tommy Reffell

Dylan Coetzee

Wales levelled the series last weekend after claiming their first win on South African soil thanks to a superb late Gareth Anscombe conversion.

It is all to play for this weekend in Cape Town as the Springboks have reverted to a largely tried and tested line-up whilst Wales have all the momentum.

Here, Planet Rugby breaks down five key talking points ahead of the series decider.

South Africa milestone men

Eben Etzebeth will create history in Cape Town on Saturday as he becomes the youngest player to reach 100 caps for the Springboks. Since the gargantuan second-row made his debut, South Africa has played 114 Tests and he has played 99 of them. It is an incredible feat showcasing his talent and consistency. Etzebeth will be inspired and undoubtedly be looking for his presence to be felt on his big day.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi will reach a milestone of his own as he runs out for his 50th cap. A fine achievement for the robust hooker who has grown tremendously in stature after cementing his role in the starting line-up. Mbonambi will empty the tank before making way for the ‘Bomb Squad’ later on.

Half-back kicking battle

The selection of Jaden Hendrikse over Faf de Klerk is bold, particularly in a series decider. Nevertheless, it will be a big test of the young star’s composure and an inspection of his kicking game. Opposite number, Welshman Kieran Hardy, has kicked tremendously well throughout the series in tandem with captain Dan Biggar, which has been critical to their success. Expect the Welsh pair to continue their strong kicking form and demand more of the Springboks pair this time around. Handre Pollard and Hendrikse will need to kick well or risk ceding control of the game to Wales and in an arm wrestle of a Test match that could prove fatal. The team that kicks better out of hand will have a better chance of winning.

Wales has the momentum

Wales claimed their first win on South African soil last Saturday, and the spirits in the camp will be very high. Coach Wayne Pivac will be hoping to take as much momentum as possible into the series decider as the Springboks will have to start from scratch – a negative spinoff of Jacques Nienaber’s drastic selection last weekend. Credit to Wales as the team has proved its worth during the tour, and they will smell blood in the water. However, it is all for the Springboks to do. Wales needs to capitalise on their momentum with a quick start in Cape Town.

Fatigue contrast between the teams

Whilst Wales have momentum, they have used a largely unchanged matchday 23 throughout the tour, and fatigue could take its toll after a long season. By contrast, Nienaber’s radical selection policy means this week’s Springbok starting line-up is well rested for the most part. Fatigue will come into play when the Boks introduce their ‘Bomb Squad’ in the second half. It will be interesting to see if Wales have enough in the tank to combat a rested Springbok surge late in the game.

Do the Springboks have an answer for Tommy Reffell?

Wales flanker Tommy Reffell has arguably been the player of the series thus far after tremendous performances in the first two Tests. The Leicester Tiger has not looked back since making his debut in Pretoria and has been a menace at the breakdown, showing incredible timing and strength over the ball. Unfortunately, the Springboks have not found a solution for the flanker’s exploits, and Reffell could be critical in taking the breakdown away from the South Africans again. Captain Siya Kolisi will have his hands full trying to keep the Welshman out of the game.

READ MORE: South Africa v Wales preview: Springboks to clinch series with narrow victory in Cape Town


South Africa v Wales preview

Planet Rugby previews the series deciding third Test between South Africa and Wales at the Cape Town Stadium.