LONDON, October 16- Wales are “not ready to go home” and South Africa are in no mood to quit, so something will have to give when they meet in what is set to be a bruising World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
Four years ago, Wales suffered an agonising 9-8 semi-final loss to France, a match in which captain Sam Warburton was sent off for a spear tackle.
This time they have emerged from a ‘Pool of Death’ where they beat England 28-25 before losing 15-6 to Australia in the pool decider at Twickenham last weekend.
“We’re not ready to go home on Sunday,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said of his side’s looming return to Twickenham.
“We came back from New Zealand in 2011 feeling a little unfulfilled in that we had done something reasonably special but hadn’t reached the final with that sending off of Sam,” the New Zealander added.
They now face a Springbok side whose World Cup started with the biggest shock in the tournament’s history when the two-time world champions were beaten 34-32 by Japan.
South Africa, however, won their next three games to top Pool B and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer reckons the stunning loss to Japan helped harden his side.
“Losing to Japan was a very tough day, but we had to learn from it,” he said.
“But I have said to the players this week we are right back to where we started and we have to go through it all over again.”
A high penalty count has proved the Springboks’ Achilles heel at this World Cup ,and Meyer said “great discipline” would be needed to avoid giving in-form Wales goal-kicker Dan Biggar easy points.
– Risk and reward –
Four years ago in New Zealand, Wales beat Ireland in the quarter-finals when South Africa were edged out by Australia at the same stage.
“What we learnt from 2011 is that during this tournament you have to be prepared to throw something different in,” Gatland explained.
“We did that against Ireland in 2011 and changed the way we wanted to play. We’ve done a couple of things this week that hopefully South Africa haven’t seen.
“If you look at some of decisions the best players in the world make, it’s about high-risk, high-reward.”
Wales have recalled flanker Dan Lydiate, whose renowned tackling skills are set to be put to the test by the ever-physical Springboks, with Tyler Morgan drafted in at centre as George North returns to the wing.
South Africa have lost just two of their 30 Tests against Wales, although one of those defeats was a 12-6 reverse in Cardiff in their most recent meeting last year.
But Warburton said: “Players never talk about history. I’m always the optimist. If it’s Tottenham against Manchester United, I always think Tottenham will win,” said the Spurs fan.
“We have an excellent chance of winning.”
South Africa have had their share of injury problems. The international career of captain Jean de Villiers was ended by a broken jaw against Samoa while veteran lock Victor Matfield remains sidelined by a hamstring problem.
But in Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende the Springboks have a young and talented midfield combination. There is an equally promising Test future in front of the second-row pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lodewyk de Jager
Gatland, asked what he expected from South Africa this weekend, said: “Same old, same old. They’re an incredibly physical team up front and we have to match them at scrum time and in the line-out.”
Wales will also have to keep an eye on Bryan Habana, with the veteran wing needing just one try to top New Zealand star Jonah Lomu’s World Cup record of 15.
“He’s truly inspirational,” said Meyer. “Bryan is not just the type of guy who plays for himself and records.
“There’s always one or two tries that are on that he will execute and hopefully Saturday he keeps on scoring a few tries. We are going to need one or two.”