South Africa v Wales exact scoreline predicted as backs against the wall

Wales take on South Africa
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

Rarely has a fixture between two tier one nations seen one side written off so comprehensively. It's safe to say Wales are huge outsiders to come close to South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, let alone pull off a shock victory.

Wales are blighted by injuries and are without the likes of Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza due to the game being played outside of World Rugby's designated window. On the flip side the Springboks have named a strong team, which includes world class players like Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Ox Nche, Faf de Klerk and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Warren Gatland will no doubt be telling his players to prove the critics wrong but do Wales have enough to trouble the world champions at Twickenham?

Steffan Thomas: Wales don't have the power or the set-piece to trouble the Springboks

For Wales, Saturday's Test match looks like the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. This is an enormous challenge for Gatland's men, put into context by the fact Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth almost has as many caps as the whole Wales starting XV.

What Wales lacked during the Six Nations was a dominant set-piece and explosive ball carriers in their pack. The loss of experienced tighthead Henry Thomas is a huge blow and it's hard to see a South African front-row of Ox Nche, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch not dominating at scrum time.

Dewi Lake returning to captain the side will help Wales because the Ospreys hooker is one of the only players who can physically match the Springboks. Wales have to find a way of not getting overpowered up-front and there will be a huge onus on the back-row, especially openside James Botham, at the breakdown.

Wales' game management has to be far smarter than it was during the Six Nations and they simply have to kick accurately. South Africa put a huge emphasis on the kicking game but Wales' back-three, which is bolstered by the return of Liam Williams, are good in the air.

The Springboks only arrived in the UK on Thursday, so if Wales can start well and Mason Grady can give them some gainline then they have a chance of keeping it competitive. But ultimately I doubt whether Wales have the power to live with the Springboks for the full 80 minutes.

Predicted score: South Africa 45-19 Wales

Mathew Davies: Scoreline could be painful but learnings beneficial

Wales’ task against the Springboks this weekend was always going to be a tough one but when the world champions named their team everything seemed to get that much harder.

Without wanting to write the game off before a ball has been kicked, this will all be about performance over result for Warren Gatland.

There is no such thing as a free hit in international-class Test rugby and this shouldn’t be treated as such, more of an exercise in learning who has the ability to step up to the highest of standards.

Gatland has already mentioned this is an opportunity for players to put their hands up for the tour of Australia.

On paper you can’t really see where Wales will get any joy at all out of this Springbok team, certainly up front, where they are absolutely stacked with world-class talent.

It will be how Wales’ novices approach the game - and how they cope with the intensity - which will be the real learnings for the head coach and his team.

The scoreline could be a painful one but the experience should, ultimately, be beneficial.

Prediction: South Africa 41-13 Wales

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Glen Williams: Looking forward to this summer, but expect Springboks win

Despite the obvious caveats, I'm actually looking forward to watching Wales this summer. Yes, Warren Gatland's side go into the game against South Africa as comfortable underdogs, but there's a bigger picture at play here.

Like the vast majority of Welsh rugby supporters, I don't expect anything other than a Springboks win, but for me it's more about picking out green shoots of positivity and foundations on which to build.

I'm particularly keen to see Ellis Bevan at scrum-half, a position in which we have seen very few new faces over the last decade, to see how he helps to control Wales' attack. Coming up against the formidable Faf de Klerk will be a big old battle for Bevan.

Sam Costelow needs a big game at 10 and hopefully having a big carrier in Mason Grady at 12 will afford the fly-half more front-foot ball in order for Wales to get that attack moving far quicker. But the mountainous Springboks defence will have something to say about that, no doubt.

I look at the inexperience on Wales' bench and worry that even if they do manage to keep the game tight in the first 50 minutes, South Africa's finishers could take the game away from them. But, perhaps optimistically, I think Wales could score a few.

Prediction: South Africa 35-20 Wales

Jon Doel: It won't be quite as bad as you might think

Prior to the teams being named, I had a sneaking suspicion Wales might come close to pulling off a shock in this opening match of the summer. Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake were back, tighthead Henry Thomas would make the scrum a different proposition and lessons would hopefully have been learned from the Six Nations.

That feeling was also based on an expectation South Africa would name a second-string side that would be in unfamiliar surroundings in the Springboks' first match since the Rugby World Cup.

This week's events have changed all that. The loss of Morgan, who was such a talismanic figure at the World Cup and makes the players around him better, is a monumental blow, while a number of other injury problems, including at tighthead, leave Wales in trouble. Throw in the fact the Springboks have named a very strong side, particularly the forward pack, and it's hard to see anything but a very difficult afternoon for Warren Gatland's men at Twickenham.

The selection of Mason Grady at 12 is most welcome and feels like the way forward, while I expect Taine Plumtree to have a big game and establish himself as Wales' first-choice number six for the future.

I'm confident Wales will be better than what we saw in the Six Nations and I hope we'll start to see a clearer identity emerge, with Grady at the heart of it. But the front five and bench look severely underpowered compared to the opposition, and it tends to start and finish there in Test rugby.

Wales will lose a disjointed affair, but not by as much as people think.

Prediction: South Africa 31-17 Wales