Whilst the Springboks will be fresh after a 10 day break since their easy win against the USA, Wales have suffered yet more injuries in their final pool game defeat to Australia. Tellingly, none of their injuries have occurred in their pack, and despite their poor scrumming display against Australia, they remain one of the best sides at the break-down. South Africa were dominated up front by Japan in their opening game, and despite encouraging displays against Scotland and Samoa, the Welsh pack will be their strongest challenge at the Cup thus far.
South Africa would be expected to dominate the Welsh in the scrums, especially with strong depth off the bench. The Welsh scrum was poor against England and was unable to gain an advantage over a seven man Australian scrum the previous weekend. The lineouts should fare better for them against the more inexperienced duo of de Jager and Etzebeth, with Matfield unlikely to recover from his hamstring injury in time. The South African forwards are likely to dominate the collisions, and will hope for strong momentum from their drives, putting the dangerous Welsh loose trio on the back foot and reducing their effectiveness at the rucks.
JP Pietersen is expected to return to the Bok backline, while there is likely to be some minor alterations to the bench. The South African back-line has been finishing strongly, with Habana topping the tries scored list. Fourie du Preez has been South Africa’s best player, and his crisp passing and decision making has taken pressure of young fly-half Handre Pollard. While there are some concerns over the Springbok’s defense, the Welsh attack has been poor, relying on the boot of Dan Biggar for points. Injuries has forced star wing George North to move to centre, and the combination of him with Roberts has proved a little too predictable. Depleted options out wide has also left them with limited options and not much fire power out wide.
Wales beat South Africa last time these two nations played in Cardiff last year, but their depleted back-line lacks the punch to put South Africa on the back foot. They will be heavily reliant on an ill-disciplined Bok pack, which the Springboks will be well aware of. A balanced approach by South Africa, where retaining their own ball will be vital, should see them beat Wales comfortably.
Prediction: South Africa by more than 7