What the Welsh newspapers are saying on Saturday about the Test against the Springboks.
Today’s edition of the Western Mail is packed with rugby-related content. ‘Just In Time …’ reads the headline alongside an image of Hadleigh Parkes on the front page.
The New-Zealand born player has qualified ‘by a matter of hours’ to play for Wales on residency grounds. He will make his Test debut at centre against the Boks at the Millennium Stadium.
The local press has highlighted the importance of this fixture. Many feel that the result will define Wales’ autumn campaign as a success or a failure. The Boks clearly feel the same way. Lock Lood de Jager said on Friday that only a win against Wales would render their season a success.
That said, the result may have no bearing on Allister Coetzee’s future with the Boks. A victory against Wales will bring his overall win record up to 48%.
This past week, Coetzee has brushed aside – and in one instance, laughed off – talk of his axing. In a short interview with the Daily Telegraph, Coetzee says: ‘There is sure to be some speculation but I don’t care about that. I am more worried about how it affects my wife and two daughters back in South Africa.’
He goes on to say that the Boks’ decline is ‘not an Allister Coetzee thing. You can see this started to filter in a couple of years ago’.
The Boks will go into the clash against Wales with only three players of colour in the starting XV. This will surely anger Coetzee’s bosses at SA Rugby, who are pushing for a side that it 50% white and 50% black by 2019.
‘Yes, transformation is an imperative,’ Coetzee responded. ‘But if you have a Warrick Gelant, you don’t want the perception of him being a quota player. When I look at the squad, I see them as rugby players not as black and white.’
The second and third pages of the Western Mail are dedicated to the Wales vs South Africa contest. Columnist Carolyn Hitt reflects on the great clashes between the two rugby-mad nations.
Hitt notes that today’s meeting ‘holds significant challenges for a Wales depleted by injury and players returning to clubs across the border. An inexperienced pack is a particular concern given the traditional forward physicality South Africa bring.’
Andy Howell feels that Wales have to start improving on their shocking southern hemisphere stats.
‘Wales 3, Southern Hemisphere Superpowers 34. That’s the record of Warren Gatland’s team against the real elite since he was appointed Welsh coach a decade ago,’ Howell writes.
Howell lists Wales’ many shortcomings and says the Boks are a better side than the recent 38-3 loss to Ireland in Dublin suggests. ‘However this is an opportunity for Wales given that it is the end of a tiring season for the Springboks.
‘Despite the general record against the southern hemisphere big three, there isn’t a psychological barrier against the Springboks because Wales have won two of the last three fixtures between the nations.. … The danger is that South Africa will simply be too physical for a weakened opposition and power their way to victory.’
Ben James has looked at the head-to-head battles and rated each player ahead of the Test. Clearly he feels that the lineout contest between Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and De Jager will be decisive.
James is also expecting the Wales loose forwards to get the better of their South African counterparts, and for flyhalf Dan Biggar to outshine ‘Hendre’ Pollard.
Wales Rugby Union authorities have noted the drunken behaviour in and around the Millennium Stadium on match days. There were a few incidents during the recent game between Wales and New Zealand, and some have called for bars inside the stadium to be closed going forward.
‘You don’t want to spoil the day for everyone else,’ Wales forward coach Robin McBryde told the Western Mail.
‘There’s no better stadium in the world, so it would be a shame to spoil that with the behaviour of one or two. And to those who spoil it – don’t bother coming at all.’
Compiled by Jon Cardinelli in Cardiff