Updated: Mar 8
The first of the three test Incoming Series against Wales kicks off tomorrow at 17:05 at a sold out Loftus Versfeld and the build up is going full steam ahead. The Springboks named their start side on Tuesday, whilst Wales named their match 23 yesterday. Taking a look at the two sides, here are the three areas I believe the game will be won or lost.
The games between these two sides are, especially recently, very close affairs, often going down to a single clutch penalty to determine the winners. Wales have started their bomb diffuser Liam Williams at full back which was as predictable as anything under the circumstances. With Hardy at 9 and Biggar at 10 there is going to be plenty of kicking coming from the Welsh.
The same can be said of the Boks. Faf, Elton, Willemse all boast solid boots and Faf in particular is an expert at keeping teams pinned in their half with his box kicking. Willie Le Roux looked shaky under the high ball in 2021 and the inclusion of Willemse should be good news in this department.
Both sides boast experienced wingers who are deadly in the loose and whoever establishes the territory from the boot and keeps the aerial contest in their favor, will have a huge advantage in this one.
The Springboks are renowned for their hunting prowess off the back of a rolling maul and in Mbonambi and Marx they have two hookers who will steer their pack around the park if they are given the chance. It will be crucial for Wales to contest at lineout time and to stymie the Boks ability to generate momentum here.
Without Alun Wynn Jones, the Welsh will have to box smart at lineout time and avoid giving away penalties when under pressure, or the Boks will keep the score board ticking. Jones' inclusion later on could prove a master stroke as the contest flares up, he may just bring a calming effect that helps his side subdue the Bomb Squad.
3. Use of the bench
The starting sides of this fixture are fairly even across the board and both XV boast considerable experience and proven match winning ability. The first 60 minutes are likely to be extremely close, with only a handful of points separating the sides.
It will come down to the last twenty minutes of this contest, and which team can gain the momentum in the final quarter to determine a winner. The Boks will have the crowd and altitude on their side so the use of the bench is going to be crucial. Wales Head Coach must avoid the temptation of deploying his subs too early as he will need all the energy his side can muster when the Boks unleash the bomb squad.
On the other hand, Nienaber needs to time it right, as he often has, to inject the power of Kitshoff, Marx and Koch as the Boks establish dominance in the set pieces, whilst deploying Kwagga and Louw shortly after to stymie the breakdown.
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