Wales head into their semi-final against South Africa with a lot of positivity surrounding their hopes of victory. They have won the last five meetings between the sides. Robert Rees looks at why Wales won’t be fearing the Springboks.
Wales can match the power game
South Africa dominated the Japanese, as they have done with many of their opponents, with their power game.
Japan fell away when the most dominant force in world rugby came towards them – the Springboks pack.
Wales won’t match that fate. In fact, they’ll have a go at bettering it. With Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and Aaron wainwright set to line up in the back row South Africa will have be at full tilt to ensure they compete at the breakdown.
The Welsh pack is a big and well-structured one, working under Robin McBryde. They will disrupt the driving maul that caused Japan so many issues, especially with Adam Beard in the squad.
Wales’ scrum may not have been as strong as they’d have liked during the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but it’ll certainly compete come Sunday.
History on the side of the Welsh
Wales have now defeated the Springboks in each of their last four matches.
This one will be different though. South Africa are on an upward trajectory after a slump over politics, poor coaching and bad form. This side are the reigning Rugby Championship champions.
Wales will have to be wary of that. This is a wounded animal and one that many tipped to win the World Cup.
South Africa last met Wales at a World Cup in the 2015 quarter final. That day South Africa walked away as the winners.
Wales are a better-rounded side than the one that lost that day and the players Gatland has capped since now have an instinctive feeling on what it’s like to defeat South Africa.
Wales want to give Gatland his farewell dream
With Warren Gatland and a large proportion of his staff moving on to pastures new after the World Cup his 31-man squad will want to give him the ultimate send off.
Alun Wyn Jones will no doubt lead his side with enough passion to carry a nation but with every player fighting for history and for one man that has changed international rugby in Wales forever there’s an added motivation for the Welsh squad to win and reach that final for the first time.
Wales’ game plan suits their opponents
Their dynamic bench duo of Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell lift the tempo in the final quarter, and this is after an hour’s dissection at the hands of Dan Biggar’s kicking game.
Add in some potent finishers with the likes of Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams to attack and Wales will be looking at a full game performance.
French performance has no bearing on semi-final
Despite scraping across the finishing line against France in their first knockout game, Wales won’t have that same issue come Sunday.
Their slow and sluggish start will very much have been targeted in their week between games. Getting out-gunned by France would have hurt, mentally and physically.
Gatland will be sure to have spoken about that to get his players back in the right mental frame to take on the mass of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and the rest of the Springboks pack.
Wales will be as ready as they can and despite the recent injuries to Jon Davies, who hopes to be back in time and to Josh Navidi who has had to fly home.
If Wales can stand up and battle South Africa physically then they will have enough to beat Rassie Erasmus’ men.
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