Welsh rugby legend Scott Gibbs can't see his countrymen succeeding where so many previous teams have failed, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
The British & Irish Lions' series victory in Australia has generated an expectation the world over. That expectation was met, at least to some degree, when England beat the Wallabies at Twickenham last Saturday.
A LIONS TRIUMPH IN PERSPECTIVE
Some expect Wales to score what would be a monumental win over the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium this weekend. Legendary Wales flyhalf Barry John wrote in his column for the Western Mail that the time is ripe to scalp the South Africans. Former international prop Graham Price also believes that Wales will build on the Lions' success and end a 14-year losing streak against the Boks.
Gibbs, a former Lions and Wales centre himself, feels otherwise.
These days, Gibbs divides his time between Cardiff and Cape Town. He follows Welsh and South African rugby closely, and it's his opinion that Sam Warburton's men will finish second again this Saturday.
Warburton recently admitted that Wales traditionally struggle at this point of the season. It's for this reason that a much-needed win may be out of Wales' reach, and why the Boks' great record in Cardiff will continue.
Gibbs acknowledged that Wales have done well to push the Boks close in recent times, but was also quick to point out that the Dragons don't have what it takes to close out the contest in the dying stages.
Wales so nearly scored a famous upset over the Boks in the pool game at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand. Warburton was especially prominent on that occasion, as was centre Jamie Roberts. Wales dominated the collisions and breakdowns, but still the Boks managed to escape with a 17-16 win.
'Can Wales even dominate to that extent this week? I'm not so sure,' said Gibbs in an interview with SARugbymag.co.za.
'If you look at who the main protagonists were on that occasion, a key man is most certainly missing ahead of this weekend's game. Wales will need Warburton and Toby Faletau to have big games again, but they will miss Roberts [who is unavailable because of injury] at the gainline.
'History tells us that Wales battle at the start of the November Test series. They will need a big physical effort if they're going to unsettle the South Africans at the set pieces as well as the gainline, but I wonder if they're capable of that in their first hit-out of the season.'
BOKS HAVE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL EDGE
Gibbs knows what he's talking about. It was as a hard-running, uncompromising midfielder that he enjoyed success with the Lions when they toured South Africa in 1997.
Physicality is a prerequisite when battling the Boks and Gibbs has his doubts that Wales can go 12 rounds in a heavyweight bout.
The Lions may have beaten the Wallabies this June, but the recent Rugby Championship has confirmed that the Australians are not as robust as their New Zealand and South African counterparts.
'I can see why some people would expect Wales to do well. It's a fair assumption after the Lions series win, but the big question is whether they can reflect that form in what will be Wales' toughest Test of the year.
'It is an exciting opportunity, but I think that the Boks are the side with all the momentum. Wales need to start delivering by beating the big southern hemisphere sides, but will that victory come this weekend against the Boks? I highly doubt it.
'Wales are bridging the gap between the north and south slowly, and I suppose they need to make a statement that they can go toe to toe with a team like South Africa for the full 80 minutes.'
Gibbs has been impressed by the Boks' progress under coach Heyneke Meyer and feels the South Africans are stronger now than they were at the start of their last tour to Europe in November 2012.
'You could say that Wales have a chance if the Boks come into this game with a complacent attitude. But from what I've seen thus far, this doesn't seem to be a danger with Heyneke in charge.
'I don't think this Saturday will be the day for that elusive Welsh victory. It could be a humdinger for 60 or 70 minutes, but then that's usually when the Boks step up a gear. And with a guy like Morné Steyn in form, the Boks will have the means to translate forward momentum into points.'
Wales will announce their match 23 at 2:30pm (South African time) on Tuesday.
Photo: Tom Shaw/Getty Images
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