So the final game of a long, exhausting year is upon us. No doubt some players would prefer a Barbarians match to end the year, but instead the fixture list has thrown up a old classic. Wales, in Cardiff, is one of the great tests and spectacles in World Rugby.
The Springboks take on the men from the valleys, coming off the back of an intense test against the Scots, and would be forgiven if they had one foot on the plane back home. However, word coming out of the camp this week, is that they’ve targeted this game from the start of the tour and are uber focused on ending the year on a good note.
The Welsh have a superb record against the Springboks of late, winning all 3 of their last encounters. You get the feeling however, that their recent record against the Boks is more of an annoyance than a worry. There’s no real sense of them overtaking the Boks, but they will be keen to uphold their recent record.
Star fullback Leigh Halfpenny has been ruled out of the game, with the silky Liam Williams replacing him. Williams gave the All Blacks all manner of problems in a Lions jersey, and his running lines and evasive footwork will test the Boks defensive lines. In midfield Jonathan Davies starts, who I consider as the best centre in World Rugby. The one major surprise is at flyhalf, where Gareth Anscombe starts ahead of Dan Biggar. In the pack there’s talk of the much vaunted loose trio, with Justin Tipuric in particular, somebody who causes havoc at the breakdowns. Alun Wyn Jones will look to rule the skies with his experience.
The Springboks have named an unchanged starting lineup and only one change on the bench. Eben Etzebeth returns via the wood, and he will surely add some fire and grunt in the last quarter of the game.
Rassie clearly sees this as his strongest side heading into the World Cup, and is giving them as much opportunity as possible to gel further as a unit before Japan. Much will depend on the Boks getting fast ball from the rucks, and negating the Welsh loose trio.
This should be a cracker. Both sides will go hell for leather at each other. I’m expecting the Boks to be motivated and up for this, regardless of what the Welsh bring or how loudly they sing.
Prediction: Springboks by 4
Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Tomos Francis, Ken Owens, Nicky Smith.
Replacements: Elliot Lee, Rob Evans, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkins
South Africa: Willie Le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian De Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Embrose Papier, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.
Kickoff time: 19:20 SA time