Boks in UK

Boks v Wales: 3 tasty duels

2013-11-08 14:07
Patrick Lambie (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Whenever South Africa tackle Wales, it is a meeting of mighty, revered rugby cultures regardless of how the teams are looking in the lead-up.

VIDEO: Sport24 chats Wales v Boks

The fact that Saturday’s hosts at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are defending Six Nations champions, and the Springboks are on an upward curve under Heyneke Meyer’s hitherto sensible coaching tutelage, only cranks up the gravitas.

I could have pinpointed several, but here are three individual match-ups I’m particularly looking forward to ...

Leigh Halfpenny v Pat Lambie

It’s pretty simple: Welsh fans will be banking on their fullback to bang over his goal attempts unfailingly. After all, celebrated British sportswriter James Lawton wrote earlier this year: “His accuracy is as inevitable as death and taxes.” No 15 rival Lambie, meanwhile, will only be the back-up place-kicker to flyhalf Morne Steyn, but so many South African eyes will focus on his general performance in the last line of defence, where he’s been a slightly curveball (yet perhaps delightfully so?) selection ahead of Zane Kirchner. Halfpenny was player of the series on the British and Irish Lions’ successful tour Down Under this year; that’s how good he is. Like Lambie, his ball-in-hand play is a sprightly aspect of his make-up, and the two fullbacks have other things in common like similar physical stature (as both their surnames hints, not terribly big!) and relative youth.

Mike Phillips v Fourie du Preez

Don’t be too deceived by the fact that the Welsh scrumhalf berth will be filled by a currently clubless individual. Phillips, an unusually big unit for the No 9 jersey, has just been sacked by Bayonne – he is not averse to the odd “late night incident” – but his national side firmly keep their faith in him. To his advantage, probably, he won’t have Bakkies Botha chirping in his ear about his “sexy blue eyes” this time (a la Lions tour of SA 2009) but he should also find that direct opponent Du Preez isn’t nearly as keen to hand out such compliments on Saturday. This clash of the richly-experienced thirtysomethings could be crucial to the outcome, given how they will be conduits for so many of the tactical matters involved. Personally, I am still so comfortable with seeing the genius of “FDP” pulling the strings for the Boks. The man with the long pass will also not be too put off by Phillips’ sturdy physical dimensions.   

Adam Jones v Tendai Mtawarira

Of course much of the front row talk has revolved this week around Frans Malherbe’s taxing Test debut against Gethin Jenkins, but no less intriguing at all will be the Boks’ No 1-jerseyed “Beast” pitting his wits – not to mention muscle – against veteran Welsh tighthead Jones. The gnarly 32-year-old Ospreys man, who might be branded a magnificent advertisement for Movember all year round, excelled in the Lions’ triumph in Australia earlier this year: any prop who can dismantle Benn Robinson deserves to be taken very seriously at scrum-time indeed. Butwarira can be a deadly scrummaging force of his own, and if he’s in anything like the mood that saw him once demoralise another hardened northern-hemisphere front-ranker in Phil Vickery, we’ll be in for a rare treat at the set-piece come Saturday night, won’t we?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  boks on tour  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby
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