Wales will go into their opening pool match against South Africa hoping of getting their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against the Springboks, who have failed to impress of late.
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Despite being reigning world champions Warren Gatland’s side will be quietly confident of picking up a win after South Africa stuttered their way through the recent Tri Nations.
Having lost their first three games, the Springboks did finally show some spirit as the overcame New Zealand in their final game, but the pressure is on Peter de Villiers to perform under intense pressure from a watching home crowd.
Gatland sprung a surprise when he named his team earlier this week as Rhys Preistland was handed the fly-half jersey for the most difficult test in Pool D, although the injury to veteran number 10 Stephen Jones may have forced his hand somewhat.
James Hook, who impressed at 10 during Wales’ World Cup warm up games along with Preistland will start from Full-Back, a tactic that backfired during their loss against England in Cardiff as the Perpignan player often found himself on the periphery of the action.
There are still plenty of injury concerns for Wales as they go into the game without one of their best players, Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rhys, with hooker Rees out of the tournament all together and Jenkins still on the road to recovery from a calf injury.
The Boks meanwhile have named a vastly experienced squad that will attempt to counteract the natural flair of Wales, with 815 caps accrued by the 15 that will take to the pitch on Sunday; the most experienced South African side ever fielded. With Juan Smith ruled out of the tournament, the burden of expectation falls upon the shoulders of openside Heinrich Brussow, who is key to South Africa’s likely game plan to slow the game down and strangle the Welsh attacks.
Having suffered a humiliating first round exit in France four years ago while South Africa went on to lift the Webb Ellis trophy, Wales will look to readdress the balance, and while their own form has been indifferent of late, there could be an upset.