Cape Town - Aged only 18 then, human battering ram George North started his international career against South Africa, and directly marking established Springbok great Bryan Habana, at the Millennium Stadium in November 2010.
The heavy-framed wing firmly announced himself to the rugby world by notching two tries and having a hand in a third, although the Victor Matfield-led Boks still had the wherewithal to prevail 29-25 in a nail-biter.
Eight years on, and North finds himself up against a man increasingly deemed a worthy successor to 2007 World Cup-winning Habana in the Bok No 11 jersey: Aphiwe Dyantyi.
One of most talked-about new faces in Test rugby this year, Dyantyi is one of those sportsmen able to sidestep someone in the proverbial phone booth, and with a big heart as a handy part of his defensive arsenal.
His match-up with the Welsh dynamo of a different kind will be among several with the potential to please purists in the tough-to-call bilateral clash in Cardiff on Saturday (19:20 SA time).
Here’s my own favoured quartet ...
Aphiwe Dyantyi v George North
Bok left wing whippet Dyantyi doesn’t have too much more left to prove when it comes to “marking a juggernaut” duties at international level: he’s already shown this year he’s a match (and sometimes significantly more) for big No 14 specimens like Israel Folau and Waisake Naholo. Still, there’s another uneven tale of the tape in store for him in purely physical terms when he encounters Welsh powerhouse North (109kg, some 22kg superior to the Lions-based speedster) at the Principality Stadium for the first time. Though still only 26 - he was a teenager when he debuted for the Scarlets - North is an 81-cap Test veteran and playing South Africa specifically for the ninth time. He will be fully aware of certain ongoing question marks around Bok defensive alignment in the wide channels at times, although Dyantyi is a courageous tackler and track-backer which at least partially allays that bugbear. And after too few attacking opportunities on his side of the field at Murrayfield last weekend, the Bok predator will be keen to move his hefty rival around if he gets decent front-foot ball to play with. Despite the bother he has caused them individually over the years, North remains only with a 25 percent win record (two from eight) against the Springboks ...
Handre Pollard v Gareth Anscombe
Tipsters seem relatively nonplussed about which team will prevail in this one, certainly going a long way to suggesting there’ll be precious little in it at the final whistle. Against that backdrop, accuracy (or otherwise) in place-kicking could be a key determinant of the result. Wales are inconveniently missing their injured metronome off the tee, fullback Leigh Halfpenny, and their next most reliable pot-shot factor, Dan Biggar, is confined to the bench. So flyhalf Anscombe’s ability to bang over goals under pressure could come under major scrutiny ... and it is an area where the Boks’ own accumulator, Pollard, has generally excelled in the successive tour triumphs over France and Scotland. Pollard’s confidence and incisiveness in open play has been a revelation, too. The 27-year-old, NZ-born Anscombe is nevertheless a seasoned pro, and well known to South Africans from his years as a Super Rugby combatant with the Blues and Chiefs before his switch to northern climes. He shouldn’t lack conviction on Saturday at No 10, either, after operating there in the 9-6 victory over Australia a fortnight back. But just how well will he (or any others helping deputise there for Wales) step into the gaping Halfpenny kicking void?
Siya Kolisi v Justin Tipuric
A fetcher in the most classical sense, Tipuric was masterful against the renowned Wallaby loose-forward pilferers when Wales broke a long-time bilateral drought against the Australians earlier this month. He seems glued down now to a starting berth (remember, northern open-siders tend to wear No 7) following the retirement of Sam Warburton, who dominated the spot for eight or nine years. But Tipuric hardly lacks Test knowledge himself with 60 caps, even if the narrow majority so far (31) have been off the bench. Bok skipper and open-sider Kolisi is not one of the more orthodox stealers on the scene; the Boks adopt a more blanket approach to the chore among their forwards, where Duane Vermeulen and Malcolm Marx, for example, are consistently influential. While presumably mindful that he will need to aid the cause in that area against Tipuric and company, Kolisi had his best Test of the tour against Scotland last week, where his counter-rucking was impactful, while he will also hope for healthy ball-carrying/linking opportunities here. This game is a chance also to re-establish his honour, to a good degree, after some experts felt Kolisi (certainly with no significant track record of unpalatable conduct) was highly fortunate to escape disciplinary action for an uncharacteristic, back-of-head “butt” against a Scottish opponent last weekend.
Franco Mostert v Alun Wyn Jones
The Bok motorbeat at No 5, Mostert, featured in this exercise last week, too, when he ran the Bok lineout (an increasingly noticeable strong point) against Scottish beanpole Jonny Gray. Once again last Saturday, hooker Marx staved off the throwing “yips” with his former franchise colleague reassuringly making the calls from the middle. But this will be a vital area of play all over again in the tour-closer, especially with Mostert directly up against one of the most gnarly and wily lock customers on the planet ... home captain Wyn Jones. Of his 119 Wales caps, the 33-year-old Ospreys favourite has not played any more games against a single nation than South Africa (and England) with 17 tussles apiece; he has got in Bok faces since as a far back as 2007 even if he only sports four wins against them thus far. Mostert is unlikely to play second fiddle to the veteran for unsung graft at close quarters, although a few strong carries would also help keep him a nose ahead of certain other high-quality, slightly brawnier second-rowers in the Bok pecking order.
15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Nicky Smith
Substitutes: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Watkin
15 Willie le Roux, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe
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