Wales v South Africa: Gatland's side can end year on a high

Wales were beaten at home to the All Blacks last weekend
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Simon Mail previews Wales' final international of the year with the team facing the Springboks in Cardiff...

"Wales have won two of the last three clashes against the Springboks including last year's 27-13 victory. The Welsh have also won the two most recent matches to take place in Cardiff."

Wales v South Africa
Saturday, 14:30
Live on BBC One

Wales bring their year to a close with a home game against South Africa at the Principality Stadium this weekend. Warren Gatland's side are the last of the home nations to play a match with this game actually falling outside World Rugby's autumn Tests window. It has been a mixed set of performances and results from Wales over the last month but a victory over the Springboks will send them into the Six Nations with momentum.

Their opening match saw them beaten 29-21 against Australia despite promising spells during the game. Wales had the Wallabies under pressure but failed to make the most of their opportunities as Michael Cheika's side punished them. Gatland then made sweeping changes to his side and it was no surprise there was a lack of fluency during their unconvincing 13-6 victory over Georgia.

Wales again came up short against New Zealand but there were plenty of positive aspects from their display in the 33-18 defeat last week. The All Blacks claimed a 30th successive win over the Welsh but did not have it all their own way. Wales only trailed 12-11 at half-time and were unable to convert their advantage in possession and territory into points. New Zealand were typically ruthless with two tries from Rieko Ioane helping them pull away in the second half.

Gatland has handed Scarlets centre Hadleigh Parkes his debut on the day the New Zealander qualifies for his residency. Gatland has had major fitness problems in the front row and Kristian Dacey comes in for Ken Owens after he suffered a back injury. Significantly, Taulupe Faletau starts in the back row despite being based in England after Bath gave him permission to feature for Wales.

This is anything but a vintage South Africa team and there are still a huge amount of problems to solve for under pressure coach Allister Coetzee. The Springboks suffered a record 38-3 defeat to Ireland a couple of weeks ago which only underlined the weaknesses in the side. South Africa responded with a 18-17 win in France and a 35-6 victory over Italy but this will not disguise their current mediocrity. Coetzee has only won 11 of his 24 Tests in charge.

South Africa make five changes from the team which won in Italy. A groin injury forces prop Tendai Mtawarira to miss the game with Steven Kitshoff replacing him. Siya Kolisi and Dan du Preez both come in for Francois Leowe and Duane Vermeulen in the back row. Hooker Malcolm Marx is handed a start while Ross Cronje comes in on the left wing in place of Courtnall Skosan.

Wales have won two of the last three clashes against the Springboks including last year's 27-13 victory. The Welsh have also won the two most recent matches to take place in Cardiff. This is in marked contrast to their overall record against South Africa which emphasises the gap in quality between the sides is no longer significant. Even with a few absentees this weekend, Wales must have a big chance of claiming another victory.

Facing this current South Africa side will hold no fears for Wales. The newcomers in the team will have the chance to make an impression ahead of the Six Nations in a couple of months and this motivation could be significant. The Springboks remain unconvincing and cannot be trusted at odds of [1.71] to deliver a win. The intimidation factor which has hindered Wales' chances against New Zealand and Australia just isn't there against South Africa and the hosts are worth backing to end their year with a victory.

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Back Wales to win @ 13/8 (Sportsbook)


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