Wales v Boks: key one-on-ones

2014-11-28 07:09
Cobus Reinach (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The Springboks may need to dig very deep one last time before their summer break as they square up in Cardiff on Saturday to a Wales team smarting from their choking tendency in the closing minutes of Tests.

The Welsh will be under special pressure to go the full 80 minutes here, simultaneously meaning that if the Boks have one foot on the proverbial plane home during the second half, they could be in danger of leaking just a second loss ever to these foes, who should have won the last meeting in Nelspruit in June.

Maybe the best medicine for South Africa is to try to put the game firmly to bed well before the final quarter if they possibly can, and here are some one-on-ones they should aim to boss if that is to be achieved ...

Jamie Roberts v Jean de Villiers

Roberts is, to put it simply, a beast of a man in midfield - but apart from putting his 110kg frame to good use physically he remains a wily creator too, and gave the All Blacks plenty of problems before they finally stormed clear late in last week’s contest. He was deemed good enough by commentator Brian Moore on the day to debatably earn the man-of-the-match mantle despite ending firmly on the losing side in scoreboard terms. But Bok captain De Villiers is well used to such challenges, and will have been buoyed by his coach Heyneke Meyer’s statement this week that he is the only safe element so far in his World Cup plans. The veteran No 12 - though he may again spend a bit of time in the outside channel, allowing Jan Serfontein to test his mettle against Roberts as well - has been solid in recent weeks, although a few of his once-trademark clean breaks would be welcome if he can evade Roberts’ powerful clutches ...   

Rhys Webb v Cobus Reinach

All change for both teams in recent weeks in the scrumhalf position, with the Boks missing the seasoned pair of Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar through injury and the Welsh increasingly, it seems, marginalising veteran Mike Phillips. The unusually tall former British and Irish Lions No 9 unit is again curtailed to the bench, as eight-cap Webb - not your typical “little guy” in the slot either - gets his first exposure to a clash with the Boks. Up against him, in the even less experienced Reinach, will be an opponent making only his third start at this level but presumably fairly chipper after successive, promising showings against England and Italy. Each will boast relatively little intelligence on the other, which makes for an intriguing match-up. Reinach’s sizzling speed off the mark may come in handy ... 

Sam Warburton v Marcell Coetzee

The Springboks were more impressive in the tight five, I felt, than among the loosies in the iffy Test against Italy in Padova where their breakdown play ... well, broke down to a disappointing degree. So it is time to smarten up in Cardiff, with Meyer again placing his trust in an alliance of Coetzee, Oupa Mohoje (he needs to be more visible) and Duane Vermeulen. In his current role of primary fetcher, Sharks workhorse Coetzee - close to 2014 burnout, you would think - goes into direct battle at the Millennium Stadium with in-form Wales skipper Sam Warburton, one of the best pilferers in the business. The restoration of franchise colleague Bismarck du Plessis with his muscular turnover potential as hooker should aid the No 6’s quest to boss the phase but there are no guarantees ... 

Gethin Jenkins v Coenie Oosthuizen

Long-serving Welsh loosehead strongman Jenkins (114 Tests) reportedly grapples quite consistently with hamstring issues these days, and might not have started this one but for the club-enforced absence of Paul James. But he is still one formidable scrummaging factor on a good day, and thus a further acid test for Bok utility front-ranker Oosthuizen who must make the most of another opportunity to convince that he is the right back-up to currently crocked Jannie du Plessis on the tighthead side for SA. Getting a firm right shoulder needs to be the meaty Cheetahs man’s priority – he had a combination of some ropey set-pieces and other more satisfying ones against Italy - but expect the Boks to also get him careering onto the short-pass ball near the Welsh try-line whenever such chances may arise.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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