There’s no two ways about it, Wales were pulverised in Durban on Saturday, and there’s little reason to think it will be any different in Nelspruit. Without a genuine openside to secure the breakdown and Richard Hibbard’s power to compete in the contact area, Warren Gatland’s men look sunk. They’ve rebounded before, but this has been a long season and many are feeling its effects to the full.
Adam Jones is the first casualty, dropped entirely after being pulled before the half. Samson Lee steps up in his place, with Aaron Jarvis preferred to Rhodri Jones as backup. Aaron Shingler’s non-performance has earned him an early break as well, with Josh Turnbull called in at openside and Dan Baker on the bench. Turnbull’s selection was predictable, though the thought of moving Toby Faletau to openside and starting Baker must have crossed Gatland’s mind.
Mike Phillips has magically retained his spot despite overwhelming calls for his head, and Gareth Davies will have to wait until November to get a much deserved chance to start. The rest of the side remains intact, though Jake Ball is called in to replace Ian Evans in the reserves. One wonders if perhaps Ball might have been best started given his strength, not to mention a pretty ordinary showing from Luke Charteris last week.
South Africa have made two changes, neither of which even remotely weaken the side. Beast Mtawarira returns to start in place of Gurthrö Steenkamp, and Flip van der Merwe takes over for Bakkies Botha. Johan Goosen drops out of the squad with a minor knee complaint, handing an unlikely call up for France-based Wynand Olivier, who only a couple weeks ago lined up against the Springboks for the World XV.
Victor Matfield overtakes his old pal John Smit as the most capped Springbok of all time, winning his 112th test cap, 13 years after winning his first. More than a few eyebrows were raised when it was announced he would return to top flight professional rugby, and only slightly less at the suggestion that he would walk back into the national side, yet here is yet again, still dominating the lineout at the highest level.
The winner of this one has been pre-determined by virtue of the beatdown last week. Wales simply must be better, but it won’t nearly be enough to win. There isn’t enough gas in the tank, and the Springboks have their tails up. The visitors will do well to keep the green jerseys under 30 points. Take South Africa by 15.
SOUTH AFRICA vs WALES
Saturday, June 21, 13:00 GMT, Nelspruit
Referee: Steve Walsh (ARU)
Assistants: Romain Poite (FFR) & Francisco Pastrana (UAR)
TMO: Glenn Newman (NZRU)