Key talking points ahead of Wales’ Autumn Nations Series clash with South Africa

·4-min read

Wales will target a fifth successive home victory over South Africa when they host the world champions on Saturday.

Wayne Pivac’s team opened their Autumn Nations Series campaign with a 54-16 defeat against New Zealand last weekend.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points heading into the Springboks’ Principality Stadium visit.

Can Wales cope without captain colossus?

Since being selected for his Test debut against Argentina in Patagonia 15 years ago, Alun Wyn Jones has featured in 149 of Wales’ subsequent 194 Test matches, starting 138 of them. The 36-year-old’s consistency of performance has rarely dipped, and he captained Wales at the last World Cup, in addition to leading the British and Irish Lions in South Africa this summer, while also holding the world record for most Test match appearances. Jones is now absent, though, missing the remainder of the Autumn Nations Series and probably all of the 2022 Six Nations Championship after suffering a shoulder injury against New Zealand last weekend that requires surgery. Wales must find a way of managing without him.

South Africa – a physical battle like no other

The Springboks showcased on rugby union’s biggest stage – a World Cup final – power and set-piece supremacy that is a trademark of their game. On that occasion in Yokohama two years ago, England had no answer to such dominance, and duly wilted, suffering a 32-12 defeat. South Africa will start with the same pack against Wales that underpinned victory over Rugby Championship opponents New Zealand last month, and while the home side know exactly what is coming at them – a finely-tuned juggernaut – stopping it is an entirely different proposition.

Home sweet home for Wales

Wales boast an impressive recent record at the Principality Stadium, particularly against South Africa. After the Springboks won 16 successive home and away games at Wales’ expense between 2000 and 2014, the balance tilted slightly, with the Springboks losing on their last four Cardiff visits and not having won in the Welsh capital for eight years. Against opponents across the board, Wales can reflect on just four defeats in the last 21 Tests played at the ground, claiming 16 victories and a draw, having toppled the likes of England, Ireland, France and Australia – in addition to South Africa – during that time.

Ellis Jenkins’ comeback is one to savour

Wales v South Africa – Autumn International – Principality Stadium
Wales and Cardiff flanker Ellis Jenkins (David Davies/PA)

It is three years ago this month that Cardiff flanker Jenkins played his last Test match – against South Africa in Cardiff. On that occasion, he delivered a man-of-the-match performance before cruelly suffering a major knee injury during the closing minutes that destroyed his 2019 World Cup dream. It sidelined him from all rugby for 26 months, but Jenkins has gradually worked his way back, gaining selection for Wales’ autumn squad and then securing a starting place as he is reunited with the Springboks. A special player who has overcome adversity.

Who is Bradley Roberts?

Not even the most scholarly of Wales supporters would have had the 25-year-old Ulster hooker on their radar – but head coach Pivac did. Injuries to established squad hookers Ken Owens and Elliot Dee thinned Wales’ resources, with Cardiff’s Kirby Myhill being called up, then Roberts, who was born in South Africa but qualifies for Wales through his Ceredigion-born paternal grandmother. Roberts, who is on the bench against South Africa, only made his Ulster debut a year ago, but Pivac said: “We see an exciting prospect. We see him in the attacking side of the game having a lot of skill and a lot of ability. He’s got a good defensive brain on him.”

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