Springboks and Dragons are set for semi-final 'kicking fest'
The Boks came unstuck against former champions, New Zealand, first up in pool play some six weeks ago, but then steam-rolled Namibia, Italy, Canada and Japan, in last weekend’s quarter-finals. The winner today will meet England in next week’s final.
“We’re going to continue what we have been doing up to now but we just want to do it better this week,” said Kolisi on the eve of today’s match.
The Boks’ game plan has been simple: keep things tight and dominate in the set pieces and with the big ball-carriers and play the game in the opposition half. Scrum-half Faf de Klerk, with his box-kicks, has been the key man in this plan, and the wingers, Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, have thrived when the ball’s been sent wide.
Kolbe though is out with an injury today, his place being filled by the equally dangerous and try-machine S’bu Nkosi.
Wales attacking full-back Liam Williams is out injured, with his place taken by Leigh Halfpenny, the experienced No 15 who’s got a strong kicking game and can also ask questions with ball in hand.
Both the Boks and Wales play rather conservative rugby and it’s no surprise Warren Gatland said he was expecting a “kicking fest”.
There’s also too much at stake today for these teams to try and play any differently to what they’ve produced up to now.
“The Boks kicked 30 times against Japan last weekend. I can tell you now it’s not going to be the prettiest game,” said Wales boss Gatland.
Bok boss Rassie Erasmus, who has transformed the national team in the last 18 months since taking charge, said the Boks now had to make reaching the semi-finals count. “We had a lapse in concentration in our opening game and conceded two tries in four minutes against the best team in the world (New Zealand). But, we didn’t press the panic button. We kept working hard and are now sitting pretty to have a solid chance of playing in the final.”
Kolisi said the opportunity facing him and his team was “exciting”. “All we can do now is focus on the things that got us to this point. We’re very excited as a team. We’ve prepped hard this week and now need to go out and be effective in what we do.”
The Boks have lost to Wales on only six occasions in 35 meetings. However, Gatland’s team have got the better of the Boks in their last four clashes.
Wales have also gone through the tournament unbeaten, which has included wins against Australia, Fiji and France, in the quarters last week.