The first quarter-final of Rugby World Cup 2015 sees the two-time champions South Africa up against Wales who will be hoping to capitalise on their decent run in this tournament and make their second consecutive semi-final appearance. It can be said that both teams are pretty evenly matched in terms of their run of results with both of them recording three wins and one loss thus far. For the Welsh it was three straight wins over Uruguay, neighbours England and Fiji before they were edged out by the Australians to see them finish in second place.
The Springboks on the other hand started the campaign off with a shock defeat to then-world number 11 side Japan 34-32. The South Africans redeemed themselves, despite the loss of their captain Jean De Villiers to injury and subsequent retirement, with convincing wins against Samoa, Scotland and the tournament’s only whitewash; a 64-0 win over the United States of America to top Pool B. These two sides have faced each other on 30 occasions with the southern hemisphere side winning 27 and the Brits just two, including a 12-6 victory in November last year to end a 16-match losing streak to their opponents.
On the injury front it is the Welsh who are struggling as they have eight back line players out injured for this knockout match. Warren Gatland and his coaching staff are left with a challenge to find a partner for Jamie Roberts in the midfield as George North will revert back to the wing after filling in against Australia. The most likely options are James Hook and utility back Tyler Morgan.
For the 1995 and 2007 champions, they will nearly be back to full strength with JP Piertersen fit again and part of the 23 that will face up to Sam Warbuton and company on Saturday 17 October 2015. However former skipper Victor Matfield is on the road to recovery but is not fully fit yet. This is an exciting World Cup clash with the potential to swing in either team’s favour based on how well they play to their strengths and exploit their opponent’s weaknesses on the day.
Photo credit: Prensa UAR