South Africa v Wales: Five talking points ahead of second Test including selection drama

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

South Africa and Wales clash for the second time in as many weeks on Saturday, with plenty to play for in the context of the series.

Here’s five key talking points ahead of the second Test in Bloemfontein.

Mass changes from the Springboks met with controversy

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has made a whopping 14 changes to his starting line-up alone for the second Test, with veteran Eben Etzebeth the lone survivor from last week. There are six uncapped players in the matchday 23, including in-form stars Evan Roos and Kurt-Lee Adrendse, who start on debut.

Wales legend Sir Gareth Edwards branded the selection decision as disrespectful. However, Wales coach Wayne Pivac and captain Dan Biggar disagreed with the fly-half saying, “South Africa can pick who they want, and they are going to be strong whoever they put out”. Nienaber’s decision is based on building depth for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and may open the door for the Welsh to level the series.

D-day for Alex Cuthbert

Cuthbert made a bold decision to move to Exeter Chiefs in 2018, effectively ruling himself out of national selection as he fell short of the Wales Rugby Union 60-cap exemption for players based outside of Wales.

However, the robust wing joined the Ospreys last year and has since returned to the Wales squad after catching Pivac’s eye and vindicated his selection with a solid showing in the Six Nations.

Cuthbert is only one try away from joining a prestigious group of players such as Shane Williams and George North in the top 10 all-time try scorers for Wales.

Wales must not let discipline cost them again

Wales ruined a gilt-edged opportunity to take the lead in the series against the Springboks last weekend after leading by 15 points at half-time. Poor discipline was at the core of their downfall as four players were yellow carded by Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli whilst conceding more than double the number of penalties than South Africa.

Pivac admitted it is an area his side needs to improve as they hope to stay in the good books of Australian referee Angus Gardner in what will be another fiery Test match in front of a hostile crowd.

Two generals at 10

Fly-half is a crucial decision-making position in rugby, and the flair-filled playmakers such as Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga or Romain Ntamack often get plenty of praise. However, generals like Biggar and Handre Pollard can control a game and build a win for their team.

Both players captain their countries this weekend and have 164 caps between them, with close to 1,200 points at Test level. These two stars thrive in a tight affair hinged on a solid kicking game and tactical awareness. Recent clashes between the two sides have truly been a game of inches, and the two generals will have a massive influence on the final score this weekend.

Sam Wainwright’s roller-coaster to arrive at his Test debut

Saracens prop Sam Wainwright has had a fast-tracked journey to his inclusion in the matchday 23 for the Bloemfontein Test after Leon Brown was ruled out of the touring squad through injury, resulting in Pivac calling up the 24-year-old.

After Tomas Francis has been sent home after he sustained a concussion from a heavy collision in the first Test, Wainwright finds himself in line to make his debut for Wales. The roller-coaster to Test rugby could end up with the front-row coming on to make an impact off the bench as Wales pushes to level the series.

READ MORE: South Africa v Wales preview: Wayne Pivac’s men to stun Springboks and level series in Bloemfontein

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