TEST MATCH TIME!
The Silly Season Comes To An End!
Somewhere, somehow, World Rugby has to stop the madness!
The madness of a rugby season that drags on for close to 11 months of a year.
The madness of players jumping from one country to another in their desperate attempts to earn an international cap.
The madness of fixture lists, both at international level and lower down the order, that are overcrowded and packed with far too many meaningless games.
The madness of clubs being put ahead of country when selection for Test matches are made.
The madness of players who have just completed a long, tough season in one country or region being allowed to jump to another region of country, hemisphere even, to earn some extra off-season pocket money.
We are in a place where several tails are trying to wag the same dog.
I have spouted on about the madness of the extended rugby season demanded of southern hemisphere countries. I have had much to say about the stupidity of exposing players to the extreme impact of top level rugby without an iota of concern for their long-term health and wellbeing.
I have droned on about there being way too much rugby on offer for TV viewers and for live audiences. Too much of a good thing, and the audience starts to drain away……..
The madness of 153 players at the 2015 RWC representing countries other than the one they were born in, or where they are actually citizens, is one that the current top structures of World Rugby say they are working on. We are told that the Olympic rules of both residency and citizenship will apply..
And then there is “Club over Country” – where club owners refuse to release players to play for their countries… That is simply wrong.
And the whole issue is illustrated by the Test match scheduled for the Principality Stadium in Cardiff tomorrow.
Neither team are at full strength. Neither team can call on the services of many of their first-choice players, either due to their club commitments elsewhere, or due to injuries as the long long season takes it’s toll.
Is it still a Test match when both teams are effectively a “2nd” team?
Test matches are about the best of two countries testing themselves against each other. Tomorrow’s game is a Test in name only.
Wales vs South Africa
Date: Saturday, December 2
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-Off: 14:30 GM; 16h30 SA Time
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
The South African rugby season meanders to a close at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. The fatigue of an eleven and a bit month season will be dragging at the Springbok legs and fogging the minds as they take the field. One more 80 minute slugfest and a bit of time off beckons. Just a bit of time off though…. The Super Squads are starting to practice already.
Both teams find themselves denuded of many of their best players. South Africa are without Franscois Louw, Duane Vermeulen, Franco Mostert, all three off to play club rugby. Jan Serfontein already ducked the tour to go and play in France. The Beast Mtawarira limped off back to South Africa. South Africa have eleven changes to the squad that took on the Italians a week ago.
Wales have made 12 changes to the team that played the All Blacks last week.
Both teams made 5 changes to their starting lineups. South Africa have brought Steven Kitshoff into the starting lineup after he started off the bench last week. Warrick Gelant gets a start on the wing ahead of Courtnall Skosan, he too came off the bench a week ago.
Malcolm Marx, and Siya Kolisi are back in the starting team, while Dan du Preez gets a start after also debuting off the bench a week ago.
I remain utterly confused by Allister Coetzee’s persistence with Andries Coetzee at fullback. While he tells us the man is “underrated” I would suggest he is using the wrong word, it should be “underwhelming” with perhaps words like “erratic” and “unconvincing” could be added to the mix. Gelant is the obvious candidate, so he sends him in on the wing!
The South African bench has a very unfamiliar look about it. Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, and Elton Jantjies are joined by Ruan Dreyer, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Louis Schreuder, and Lukhanyo Am. No sign of Rudy Paige……
Wales also have five changes to their starting XV. Hadleigh Parkes will make his debut in the midfield with scrum-half Aled Davies the other change in the back-line.
There are three changes in the pack with Kristian Dacey and Scott Andrews coming into the front row alongside Rob Evans. Second row Cory Hill packs down alongside captain Alun Wyn Jones and it is an unchanged back row of Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau.
I am not holding out much hope for a great rugby match. There are just too many factors suggesting otherwise. Injuries, unavailability, fatigue…..
However, I do see the possibility of a high scoring match, as both sides might just enter into the spirit of festival rugby, and play with nothing to lose..
I hope so.
If I scan the team sheets and look at the past couple of weeks, I would suggest that South Africa will win this one, by between 9 and 12 points.
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Hallam Amos, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin
South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Warrick Gelant, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Lukhanyo Am