Rugby Wales v South Africa

June 26, 2016
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Wales get their first taste of the knockout stages of the 2015 Rugby World Cup when they take on South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Warren Gatland has made three changes to his side including handing Dragons youngster Tyler Morgan a start at outside centre.

South Africa meanwhile have looked a powerful outfit on their way to the quarter-finals after their early shock defeat at the hands of Japan in Brighton.

So just how do the teams measure up as they vie for a place in the semi-finals and where could the game be won and lost on the field? Andy Howell has compared the XVs and marked the respective players out of 10 below...

Gareth Anscombe v Willie le Roux

It’s the out of position Test rookie in Anscombe up against a silky runner, who seems to ghost past defenders and has far more experience on the biggest stage of the lot.

Willie le Roux 7

More: The verdict on the Wales team to face South Africa in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

Alex Cuthbert v Bryan Habana

In boxing parlance this would appear to be a mismatch with the out of form Cuthbert up against one of the best finishers in the world and must, at least, keep the roaming and potential match-winner Habana in check.

Tyler Morgan v Jesse Kriel

The South African is a year older at 21 but both are comparative novices in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Test rugby with Kriel having slightly more experience against better opposition.

Jamie Roberts v Damian de Allende

This has all the ingredients to be a fabulous duel with Lion-king Roberts being Wales’ defensive lynchpin and dangerous attacker de Allende having taken his stunning Super Rugby form into the international arena.

De Allende 7

Related: Wales captain Sam Warburton says reaching World Cup semi-finals would surpass achievements of 2011

George North v JP Pietersen

North has been quiet for sometime but will need to be at or near his very best because Pietersen will test his mental and physical strength with his power-packed play and full-on commitment.

More: 'Special' George North and 'great' Bryan Habana... JP Pietersen runs rule over star wings ahead of World Cup quarter-final with Wales

Dan Biggar v Handre Pollard

Biggar needs to reinforce his authority on half-back partner Gareth Davies and the Welsh forwards. If he does, Warren Gatland’s play-maker and points machine could be a key figure against an inexperienced opponent in deciding the outcome.

Gareth Davies v Fourie du Preez

It’s the master against the apprentice with the inexperienced Davies failing to boss his pack or taking on too much himself against Australia. For Wales to flourish, he has to put Springbok tactician par excellence du Preez out of his stride.

Gethin Jenkins v Frans Malherbe

Let’s not beat around the bush, Wales’ most capped player is fortunate to be starting after the vast improvement Paul James made to the scrum against Australia. However, Jenkins might benefit at the set-piece from South Africa being without leading tight-head Jannie du Plessis and certainly brings plenty in the loose.

Scott Baldwin v Bismarck du Plessis

This promises to be another super battle with Baldwin having taken his game to another level and Springbok enforcer du Plessis being one of the best hookers in the world and a real thorn at the breakdown.

Du Plessis 8

The Heyneke Meyer: I cried for 24 hours after Japan defeat... but I don't intend for Wales game to be my last

Samson Lee v Tendai Mtawarira

Zimbabwe-born ‘Beast’ is one of rugby’s most popular figures, is in his best shape for a number of years and will relish the prospect of doing a number on Lee. Wales’ tight-head has to hold the scrum up or you suspect they will be in serious trouble.

Luke Charteris v Eben Etzebeth

Two of the tallest locks in world rugby will clash with the long arms of ‘Inspector Gadget’ up against the physical might of South Africa’s latest hard man. It’s a match-up in which Wales must hold their own.

Alun Wyn Jones v Lood de Jager

The inspirational Jones must be a nightmare to play against because he’s a relentless force who never lets up and will have South Africa’s baby-faced assassin trained firmly in his sights as Wales look to do a number up front.

Dan Lydiate v Schalk Burger

Although former world player of the year Burger wears No.7 he will be at blindside flanker against Wales’ demolition man, whose job will be to knock the Springboks down behind the gain-line. Promises to be an enthralling battle between two of the sport’s most determined characters.

Sam Warburton v Francois Louw

This could be where the quarter-final is decided with Warburton having to stave off the threat of Louw, du Plessis and Burger at the breakdown. He mustn’t be Wales’ lone ranger, and has to be helped by the likes of Baldwin, Jenkins and Faletau.

Louw 8

More: The verdict on the South Africa team to face Wales: Just how good are the Springboks?

Taulupe Faletau v Duane Vermeulen

The South African is a powerful ball-carrier but may meet his match in, as far as I’m concerned, Wales’ player of the tournament in Taulupe Faletau, who is right up there with the best No.8s in the world.

Source: www.walesonline.co.uk
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