Preview: Wales v South Africa

Wales avenged some of the ghosts of 2011 when they beat France in their World Cup quarter-final last Sunday.

Wales avenged some of the ghosts of 2011 when they beat France in their World Cup quarter-final last Sunday.

This weekend they will have the chance to do the same to the memories of 2015 when they lost to South Africa in the last eight.

The teams have changed, although plenty of faces remain from that game when Duane Vermeulen offloaded to Fourie du Preez to break Welsh hearts in the corner.

Du Preez has retired, but Vermeulen will again be lining up at No.8 once again.

For Warren Gatland, this is his penultimate game in charge, and the hope will be the final comes back in Yokohama next Saturday, rather than in the third-place play-off on Friday night in Tokyo.

He has had to deal with the loss of two key men, Liam Williams and Josh Navidi both ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.

It says something about the depth Wales have that they can lose two leaders and still put out a formidable side. If anything, that is Gatland’s greatest achievement over the past four years, developing the strength behind the first XV.

Leigh Halfpenny and Ross Moriarty step in to replace the pair, while the only other change sees Jonathan Davies return in the centres after missing the win over France.

For their part, South Africa have also lost an attacking weapon, with Cheslin Kolbe’s ankle keeping him out. Sbu Nkosi starts in his place.

Gatland’s first World Cup campaign with Wales ended with a semi-final defeat. This Sunday he will have the chance to break new ground with this team.

Wales v South Africa, Sunday October 27, Yokohama, Kick-off 9am (GMT)

Wales head coach Warren Gatland:

“The nice thing about being out here is that you are kind of in a bubble and you are not seeing a lot of the stuff externally.

“If they continue to (write us off) over the next couple of days that would be brilliant. Please continue to do that as it does get us up when people write us off.

“I can’t understand why people would write us off when our record against South Africa has been pretty good in the last four or five years. That speaks for itself.

“I am excited about it. I’m looking forward to this game more than I was last week, and more confident about this game than we probably were against France.”

Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies, who will win his 50th cap:

“We were quite unlucky to lose that quarter-final four years ago. It was a good bit of skill by them at the end to score a try late on. We were devastated with that because we felt we deserved to win that game.

“We feel like we owe them one for four years ago. That will be in the back of our minds and hopefully we can get one over them this week.”

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard on his battle with Dan Biggar:

“We went at it four years ago in the quarter-final, and I thought he had a brilliant game that day. We really had to play well that day to win that match.

“He is a world-class player. I know Gareth Anscombe played for them over the last couple of years, and he’s had that big injury.

“But Dan is an unbelievably good rugby player. He is really not scared of the physical part of the match, and that’s something that excites both of us.

“It’s going to be fun to go against him for 80 minutes. He is an experienced guy, with a big variety of skills.”

Gareth Davies has been one of the standout performers for Wales at this World Cup and on Sunday he wins his 50th cap for his country. He is coming off a tough game against Antoine Dupont last time out, and this time around he has a similarly tricky match-up coming his way. Faf de Klerk is a bundle of energy and the heartbeat of the South African team, charged with lifting the tempo and marching his forward pack around. Davies will have to be in his face from the first minute to try to nullify De Klerk’s threat. If he can do that, Wales will fancy their chances of making it to a first final.

Wales: 15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. George North, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 11. Josh Adams, 10. Dan Biggar, 9. Gareth Davies; 1. Wyn Jones, 2. Ken Owen, 3. Tomas Francis, 4. Jake Ball, 5. Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6. Aaron Wainwright, 7. Justin Tipuric, 8. Ross Moriarty

Replacements: 16. Elliot Dee, 17. Rhys Carre, 18. Dillon Lewis, 19. Adam Beard, 20. Aaron Shingler, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Rhys Patchell, 23. Owen Watkin.

South Africa: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk, 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Siya Kolisi, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8. Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. RG Snyman, 20. Franco Mostert, 21. Francois Louw, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Frans Steyn.