Thinus Delport: South Africa's physicality upfront should see them beat Wales
By Thinus Delport
Last Updated: 12/06/14 5:09pm
The withdrawal of Frans Steyn from the Springbok squad is the big news from South Africa and I think a massive blow for the side.
It really changes the way Heyneke Meyer would have approached the first Test against Wales on Saturday and has forced him to field a very inexperienced centre partnership against arguably the best centre partnership in the world.
South Africa have a lot of injuries in this position - Jean de Villiers is out, the young Stormers centre Damian de Allende is injured and Juan de Jongh is out because of illness.
We saw him pair up Steyn and JP Pietersen last Saturday against the world XV and while they had a slow start to the game, they really grew into their role and this was the combination that they were going to go with against Wales. With Steyn withdrawing he has had to pair up Pietersen with Jan Serfontein.
This game is going to be won up front and I am a bit surprised to see that Meyer has opted for Gurthro Steenkamp to start at loose head prop.
Both are wonderfully talented players but JP has not played a Test at 13 and all of Serfontein’s nine caps have come off the bench. He is really going to have to step up and take a lot of responsibility in terms of communication and organising the defence. I also think he is a bit limited in what he has to offer in terms of positional play and kicking for territory.
Frans Steyn took a lot of pressure of Morne Steyn and Fourie Du Preez with that massive boot of his and although he does throw a lot of those big loopy passes, he does get the ball away – Serfontein is still developing that part of his game. But there is no doubting his talent, he is young, very physical and a real dynamic player but I think that is an area where Wales will target even more.
Jamie Roberts and Jon Davies are very experienced players and an established world class combination – Pietersen and Serfontein are going to have to really gel quickly to stop Wales exploiting this area.
This game is going to be won up front and I am a bit surprised to see that Meyer has opted for Gurthro Steenkamp to start at loose head prop with Tendai Mtawarira on the bench. Meyer talks about squad rotation but I don’t think Steenkamp brings the same power and dynamism that the Beast brings.
I do have a few concerns about the penalties that Gurthro gives away – I don’t think he is well suited to the new scrummaging laws. For me Guthro’s feet are too far back and when the pressure comes on he loses his footing – the new scrum laws mean that the smaller, more compact props have the advantage.
We did see the Boks have a few problems in the scrum against the World XV which was a bit of a concern, but Meyer would have had them working very hard in that department as it’s a key area for them.
When you play South Africa in South Africa you have to man up in the forwards! It’s about getting parity up front - if Wales can match the Springbok forwards then they have a chance because Wales have a great backline!
But we saw in the Six Nations where they struggled to get that parity against the likes of England and Ireland and were not able to react when they were on the back foot. The Springboks pride themselves on their physicality and will really take some stopping, especially at the breakdown and their driving lineout.
Dan Lydiate will be a key man for Wales here because South Africa are probably the best driving team in the world. Wales are going to have to be sharp and Lydiate will need to try and get through the middle of that drive and disrupt it. I also think he will be very instrumental around the fringes with his low chop tackles to bring down the likes of Alberts, Du Plessis, Botha and Vermeulen.
I like the look of the Welsh backrow – Faletau is a great player and Aaron Shingler at No.7 is an impressive young talent too. However this Bok backrow is very good too and Francois Louw is excellent at the breakdown.
Fourie Du Preez against Mike Phillips should be another great battle – Du Preez just seems to be getting better and better and brings so much vision and awareness to the boks. His ability to link the backs and the forwards is going to be key in this game – especially without Frans Steyn who was able to hold the ball up and get it away.
South Africa have some attacking options too – it’s not all brute strength and Willie Le Roux will want to get into the game and build on his performances from last year- he is a really attacking threat and I am looking forward to seeing him come into the line.
This will be a tough game but even with the disruption that Steyn caused when he pulled out of the squad, I still feel that at home South Africa will be too strong for Wales – but it should be a terrific tussle!