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Jon Cardinelli

‘Now is the time’


Today's newspapers in Wales Today's newspapers in Wales

What the Saturday Welsh newspapers are saying ahead of the Test at the Millennium Stadium.

St Mary's Street in central Cardiff is adorned with the flags of Wales and its opponents for this November series. Already there is a buzz around town this morning in an anticipation of what should be a monumental clash.

Many South Africans arrived in Cardiff on Friday and could be seen walking the cobble stoned roads and drinking in some of the city's oldest pubs. The visitors haven't minded telling the locals who will win when the two sides collide at 17:30 (local time).

It's a massive occasion, and Wales' leading rugby paper, the Western Mail, has given it due coverage in Saturday's edition.

While the Dragons will need their pack to front, they will also be hoping that goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny is on song and punishes all South African transgressions with that accurate boot. It is Halfpenny who is on the front page of the Western Mail, with the headline 'Now is the time' telling you everything you need to know about the importance of this game.

The back page barks the same message, with correspondent Andy Howell exclaiming that it's time to make a statement. Howell says Wales believe the moment is right to claim a big victory, which is in contrast with what former Bok forwards coach Gary Gold told this website on Thursday. Gold feels the two teams are always evenly matched in terms of physicality and tactics, and what separates South Africa from Wales is their mental strength and sheer belief they can win.

Nine pages in all are dedicated to the Millennium Stadium Test. Delme Parfitt rehashes the British & Irish Lions' triumph in Australia and how Wales need to build on that this November.

There is also an acknowledgment that this is the best Bok side to visit Wales in some time, and mention is made of the Boks' spectacular performance against the All Blacks in the finale of the Rugby Championship. Parfitt stresses the importance of Wales starting well and maintaining that momentum for the full 80 minutes. 'But if they come short again today, it will do nothing to silence those who say they are incapable of extending their European dominance to the world stage.'

The Western Mail has also highlighted five key duels. Unsurprisingly, the Welsh golden boy Halfpenny holds pride of place. The newspaper feels that Pat Lambie, who is slightly bigger than the Wales No 15, will be targeted by the local team.

Other key battles will see Scott Williams looking to prove a point against Bok captain Jean de Villiers (who the Welsh centre went as far as to label 'a legend'), and the troubled Mike Phillips facing off against Fourie du Preez.

The UK media haven't forgotten about what Beast Mtawarira did to Phil Vickery in the 2009 Lions series in South Africa, and feel that Adam Jones will have a tough task on his hands. Finally, the battle between the two openside flankers, Wales captain Sam Warburton and Bok No 6 Francois Louw, will have a massive bearing on the contest.

Halfpenny, who was recently named Midi Olympique's world player of the year, plays down his superstar status in an interview with Howell. The humble fullback points out that he is yet to score a win over one of South Africa, Australia or New Zealand, and that he is determined to change that on Saturday evening.

The South Wales Echo features another article by Howell on the subject of Wales coach Warren Gatland. The coach's refusal to address the media this week still rankles, and Howell points out that Gatland has let the Welsh public down by refusing to voice his view on what is a massive Test.

Nevertheless, Howell is confident that Wales have what it takes to beat South Africa, and even New Zealand. 'History means something but it's not everything, and I see no reason why the Welsh class of 2013 can't beat South Africa.

'They're capable of beating any team in the world,' Howell wrote after alluding to the convincing performance against England in this year's Six Nations decider. 'I'd include World Cup holders New Zealand in that little lot because Warburton and company were unstoppable that pulsating day.'

He does concede that Wales cannot be considered the best until they beat the best. 'It's what they have to do and what they can do today!' he exclaims.

In his column for the Daily Telegraph, Warburton also challenges the assumption that Wales lack the belief to win these big clashes, and insists his side is mentally prepared.

'I know there's been talk of our poor record against these southern hemisphere teams, and it can only be a psychological problem. We have to change that, we have to show that we have the ability to manage the big moments.'

Warburton added that he is relishing the prospect of battling Louw, who he rates alongside Richie McCaw, David Pocock, Sean O'Brien and Justin Tipuric as one of the five best opensides in the world.

By Jon Cardinelli

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