Funnily enough, the Wales vs South Africa game is the only game this Autumn series that I won’t be watching at the Principality – it turns out, trying to buy tickets to see the World Champs is now harder than trying to watch the All Blacks… Who knew!
It’s pretty difficult to predict the form of the home side heading into this encounter, with a rubber match of an opener against New Zealand showcasing talent that wouldn’t typically be anywhere near the matchday squad. You can definitely predict a big improvement, and with South Africa coming into this game ever confident, is it possible that we could experience the upset?#
I’m far from the type of pundit to crap all over a team having an orchestrated game plan. South Africa like to play in the right areas, they like to kick, they like territory, they like physicality… We all know this. Wales on the other hand… Also like to kick, also like territory, and are famed for being defensively sound and a graft in the collision. Both sides have remarkable similarities. However, I kind of felt as if this route one mentality sucked out the unpredictability of the game. We know South Africa are more physical, we know that the South African half backs have a better Gary Owen, and we know that South Africa are happy to graft out in phases. Although Wales were more than competitive throughout the full 80, even having stretches of play in which they were using the Bokke’s plan more effectively, you just felt that South Africa had them sussed, despite being somewhat frustrated. I think this largely came down to Biggar playing well, and Pollard having an off day. Although each side had a clear talent differential, Biggar getting one up consistently on Pollard kept Wales motoring.
Wales looked far better with Tompkins occupying that 12 jersey, as we highlighted Williams last week as a bit of a vacuum last weekend; gone were the handling errors and obvious running patterns, now we had a bit more of a maverick in the midfield. However, I still think Davies’ drop off is massive problem for this side, and I actually feel as if the vacuum that Williams creates on the outside when he plays, is just popped one across when the 12 is replaced. Davies seems off the pace, and almost wholly ineffective in attack. Conversely, Am and De Allende looked as fierce as always, being both hideously aggressive in defence, whilst also creating opportunities for support runners in attack. Wales are definitely missing a cog in that backline, as they have enough talent there to be far more creative in attack than they currently are. Tomos Williams, Biggar (or Sheedy), Tompkins, Liam Williams, LRZ and McNicholl is a competent backline, but it’s what you do in that outside channel and how you get these players functioning alongside each other which seems to be the challenge.
Back Row Dominance
One of Wales’s defining components over the last decade has been their surprising strength in depth in that back row. It’s incredibly rare that we see the men in red get dominated at the breakdown or shrugged off in the collision, and with Basham coming through the ranks, it looks like they have yet another potential star on their hands. However, they were largely dominated by a World Class back row and smashed from pillar to post. Kwagga Smith made a couple of cracking turnovers against the grain, Kolisi showcased his ball carrying ability by making a couple of storming runs through the middle and Vermeulen was his ever physical, ever imposing self. It helps having Etzebeth in front of you, but this South African back row sure can bang.
Front Row Positives
Although it was a bit of a topsy turvy affair, it never felt like South Africa, with their patented bomb squad, ever really got the upper hand on that inexperienced Welsh front row. Although at scrum time, it was difficult to predict where the penalty would end up, I felt they performed above expectations and far, far better than this time last week. I also this Carre looked dynamic and showcased his qualities away from scrum time, putting in some decent hits and disrupting the breakdown on a couple of occasions.
Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Dan Biggar, Frans Steyn
Aaron Wainwright, Jonathan Davies, Louis Rees-Zammit
Photo Creator: David Davies | Credit: PA
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