The Springbok back row looks set for a change in personnel and approach ahead of the clash under the roof at the Millennium Stadium. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
The Boks have played down the loss of veteran loose forwards Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen. They have made little of Wales’ move to secure star No 8 Taulupe Faletau – who was supposed to join Louw at English club Bath this week following the closing of the international window.
Clearly the Boks feel that they have the players to deal with the breakdown challenge on Saturday.
Beast Mtawarira has not trained with the team since sustaining a groin injury against Italy last week. The good news is that hooker Malcolm Marx has made a full recovery from a shoulder injury and is likely to front Wales.
One would expect Steven Kitshoff, Marx and Wilco Louw to pack down in the front row this weekend.
The Bok coaches continue to send mixed messages with regard to the make-up of the back row. On Monday, Allister Coetzee said that he was reluctant to make too many changes after the impressive forward showing against Italy. He gave the impression that Pieter-Steph du Toit would continue at No 7 against Wales.
On Tuesday, forwards coach Matt Proudfoot suggested that the Boks could make wholesale changes to their back row, with Siya Kolisi, Uzair Cassiem and Dan du Preez mentioned as starting options.
The roof at the Millennium Stadium will be closed, and so conditions won’t influence the contest. This should, in Proudfoot’s view, aid the visitors’ untried yet mobile back row.
‘The game against Italy suited Flo and Duane,’ said Proudfoot. ‘Their physicality clearly came to the fore in wet conditions and on a narrow field.
‘We’re playing on a bigger field this week and against a side that plays a style akin to what we are used to in the Rugby Championship. They have a New Zealand coach in Warren Gatland. That challenge actually suits guys like Siya.
‘Siya doesn’t play as close to the ball as Flo,’ Proudfoot continued. ‘He has some special skills and I want him to bring those to the contest, rather than get him to play like Flo. In the same vein, I don’t want Uzair or Dan to play a style that they are not used to.
‘They are special players in their own right. Uzair is probably closer to Duane than Dan. Uzair plays a lot on instinct. Dan is more of a roaming 8, he has a bigger engine and is similar to Warren Whiteley.
‘He is a very intelligent guy. When I put up the plan for the week he will come and question me on it. He wants to understand where he fits into the detail.
‘So we will look at that balance and what they can bring.’
Wales are coming off a 33-18 loss to New Zealand. Their players and coaches have highlighted the upcoming game against the Boks as one that will define their November campaign.
Proudfoot feels that the Dragons challenged the All Blacks last week, and that they will pose a threat to the Boks at the collisions and breakdowns.
‘They’re not going to change the way they play just because two or three players are missing [through injuries]. Their No 9 and 10 are good playmakers, and they’ve got wingers and a No 12 that carry hard.
‘It looks like Faletau is going to play. He’s integral to that team in terms of that leadership. Their set phase is similar to what Ireland have. They pushed New Zealand hard last week and were unlucky against Australia earlier this month.’
Photo: Gallo Images