Springboks Prepare To Battle Wales For Semi-Final Spot

Springboks Prepare To Battle Wales For Semi-Final Spot

The Springboks have progressed to the quarter-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England after ending top of Pool B, and as a result they will be facing Wales in their final eight encounter on Saturday at Twickenham in London.

The Welsh ended the group stage as the second placed side in Pool A following a loss to Australia but wins against hosts England, Fiji and Uruguay, with the South Africans winning three matches in a row versus Samoa, Scotland and the USA following an opening day shock loss to Japan.

This encounter will see one of the tournament favourites from the southern hemisphere facing off against one of the better European teams in recent years, representing the northern hemisphere.

Injury Ravaged Wales

The Welsh have suffered a number of injuries throughout the tournament, and will be weakened somewhat from that aspect, but they will also be motivated as underdogs with strong local support to surprise the 1995 and 2007 champions.

Though the Springboks no longer have the services of former captain Jean de Villiers (broken jaw) and Victor Matfield, who has struggled with a muscular injury, it is Wales who have had the worst luck in terms of suffering injuries before and during the tournament.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb suffered injuries before the World Cup, and were not able to join the Welsh team for the tournament, while winger Hallam Amos, centres Scott Williams and Cory Allen, and fullback Liam Williams have all been ruled out with injuries during the course of the campaign, putting the team in a difficult position. Despite the injury setbacks, the Welsh have continued to do well and have progressed to this point at the expense of host nation England.

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Despite a phenomenal record against Wales, with the Springboks winning 27 out of 30 games, and a draw leaving the Welsh with only two victories, their only ever meeting in Rugby World Cup action saw the Springboks defeat Wales by a narrow margin in a 17-16 victory in 2011.

It would therefore be ridiculous for the South Africans to underestimate their opponents on Saturday, but they should have learned that lesson already after being guilty of that in the opening match defeat to the disciplined and determined Japanese.

Out of all of the quarter-finals on paper, it would seem that South Africa and Australia have the easier matchups against Wales and Scotland respectively, but the Springboks will know that a victory against the Welsh will be followed by a semi-final versus the winner of the New Zealand – France encounter, which will certainly be a bone-crunching affair.

Habana On The Verge Of Historic Record

In terms of records, one South African in particular is on the verge of taking ownership of an incredible record, as Bryan Habana needs one more try to be the player with the most tries scored at Rugby World Cups. After the three he scored against the USA, he now has 15 tries to his name, equalling the record set by All Black legend Jonah Lomu.

A try against the Welsh would give him that well-deserved record, but they will be aware of his current form, and will no doubt be focused on stopping his speedy runs down the wing at all costs.

The Springboks have selected a strong side for this encounter, bringing back veteran JP Pietersen after resting him for the final Pool game against the USA, and they will be relying on their best selection to get a result against an injury ravaged Wales.

The Welsh have already faced two of the pre-tournament favourites in the ‘Pool of death’, defeating the English hosts in a massive upset, before putting out an admirable performance in a defeat to Australia, so they will be ready for yet another big test this Saturday.

In comparison the South Africans have not tested themselves against one of the world powers yet, and despite an early loss when they underestimated the Japanese, they have looked relatively strong in the other games.

The Springboks should have this one in the bag if they approach it with the same focus and defensive solidity that they did in their last three matches, but they must be sure not to underestimate a wounded Wales team that is a powerhouse within the European rugby scene.

This should be a bridge too far for the Welsh, who did extremely well to progress from such a difficult group, but for the South Africans one would think that a semi-final place would be the minimum requirement for a team aiming to return home with the title.