Saturday, 14 June
South Africa v Wales (Kings Park, Durban, 16:05 BST)
Saturday, 21 June
South Africa v Wales (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit, 16:05 BST)
Wales’ tour to South Africa looks increasingly likely to be a foregone conclusion. After a 3rd placed finish in the six nations, Wales have a huge task to overcome the Second best team in the world.
Lions Fatigue; the players have dismissed it but it is a real thing and has been happening to the Welsh Boys. Wales’ players have been dropping like flies recently: Leigh Halfpenny’s injury was followed by injuries to Sam Warburton and Richard Hibbard. Also a lot of players are at risk of picking up injuries, the physical demands of the past years have been extortionate for some of these players. Alun Wyn Jones has been playing virtually non-stop since September 2012, the mental and physical toll is huge that he not only deserves a rest, he need it if he’s going to be fresh come next year’s world cup.
Lions fatigue has not only stricken the Welsh team but England aswell. Geoff Parling, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Mako Vunipola, Christian Wade, Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barrit have all got, or had serious, long term injuries. It was foreseen and it happened.
Wales need to rest players, Gatland will know this better than anyone, but he can’t. Wales’ strength in depth is so poor that if the big name players were rested the team could crumble. Jamie Roberts is a battering ram and take huge hits every week for club and country. He plays in the most attritional, physical league in the world for Racing Metro and needs a rest or otherwise he’ll come into next season physically dead.
If Gatland has all his players at his disposal, and in a fresh, physical condition then this team could be very good. Wales are the one team that is feared the most in the six nations, yet they finished behind Ireland and England in the six nations. This was mainly due to their incredibly predictable game plan that has seen them do so well in the past years, has now caught up with them. They need to freshen things up, play to their strengths and start winning games. They need a well-structured plan that can beat the big teams. The have some seriously good players that need to be used. They need a plan B when they’re not on the front foot. Ireland are the current masters of the game plan; they don’t have many world-class players, yet the play the simple game and it works for them. Play to Wales’ strengths.
Paul James, in my opinion, needs to come in for Adam Jones. He’s the form tight head and needs a run of games, whereas Adam Jones may need resting with one eye on the world cup. Dan Biggar needs to be the permanent 10. A likely selection with Halfpenny’s injury, he is an assured goal kicker with strong defence and an ever-improving attack. Priestland doesn’t cut it at the moment, and is a poor kicker to be considered.
I think wales will give up a good fight in the first test, yet succumb to the relentless physical game the South Africa will undoubtedly come with. South Africa 29 – Wales 22
The second game could be a bit more edgy, a bit more physical yet I believe this will favour the big Boks. South Africa 32 – Wales 13.
One to Watch:
Dan Biggar looks set in stone to start and with the added assurance of this, along with his great form this tour could be the making of him.