The Springboks pose for their official photo ahead of their final game on tour against Wales. Photo: @Springboks via Twitter

It has been four years since the Springboks last defeated Wales in Cardiff, and this afternoon at the Principality Stadium, the men in Green and Gold will be looking at bringing that chapter to an end while finishing their indifferent season on a high.

While Cardiff has been the scene of many a bad ending for the Springboks on their year-end tour, this time around it could mark the beginning of the changing of the tide for the South Africans.

Having found themselves on the receiving end of a hiding to nothing last year which included a maiden defeat at the hands of Italy, the Springboks have been able to turn around their fortunes this year in Europe by winning their Tests against France and Italy.

But that had come on the back of another unenviable record loss to Ireland in Dublin during this brief but tumultuous tenure of Allister Coetzee as Bok coach, and while a win against Wales could mark a better – but still average – record for the team, it might not be enough to save Coetzee’s head from the gallows.

Of the 12 matches played thus far, the Springboks have won seven, drawn two and suffered two heavy and embarrassing defeats to New Zealand and Ireland and a narrow loss at home to the All Blacks.

The Springboks have blown hot and cold during the course of this season and after five consecutive morale-boosting, but deceiving victories against France and Argentina, the shortcomings of the team were badly exposed in their two draws against the Wallabies and the defeats against the All Blacks.

Perhaps the Springboks had a misguided belief of the progress they had made after the disaster of last year, and the three Test series win against France and the two not-so-convincing wins against Argentina were the undoing of the team and Coetzee.

All of this was painfully exposed in the Springboks 57-0 drubbing at the hands of the All Blacks in New Zealand.

And while the South Africans showed signs of learning from the rugby lesson handed to them by their fiercest foe, their inexperience and lack of the killer instinct was all too evident in the draw against the Wallabies a week later.

It was that very same immaturity that saw them not able to finish the job against an All Black side that were doing their best to aid their foe into a self-inflicted defeat.

Then the Irish disaster happened again on a game-plan, team selection and execution that were an unsteady foundation for any team with ambitions of succeeding in Europe.

And while nothing much changed within the Springboks thinking in the games against France and Italy, they were fortunate that age-old passion for the game that burns inside many who have donned the Springbok jersey carried them through against average opposition at best.

It will be on that very same, conservative and ineffective game-plan, questionable team selections and more importantly the precision in execution that the Springboks will be hoping breaks their run of bad luck against Wales.

While it will be up to the players to dish out a performance worthy of victory against an under-rated Welsh outfit, thousands will be left wondering if the result, whichever way it goes, won’t be a futile exercise as Coetzee’s future could already have been decided by his bosses.

Maybe, just maybe, this could be the game that brings back some of the Springboks’ dignity.

And even if it is improbable, it might too be the win that gives Coetzee a stay of execution, even though the proverbial axe seemingly awaits him upon his exit from the Principality Stadium.

Teams For Cardiff

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Hallam Amos, Scott Williams, Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans, Dan Biggar, Aled Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Cory Hill, Scott Andrews, Kristian Dacey, Rob Evans.

Bench: Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones, Rhodri Jones, Seb Davies, Dan Lydiate, Rhys Webb, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.

South Africa: Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Francois Venter, Warrick Gelant, Handré Pollard, Ross Cronjé, Dan du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Wilco Louw, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff.

Bench: Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Dreyer, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Louis Schreuder, Elton Jantjies, Lukhanyo Am.

Referee: Jerome Garces. Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes, Frank Murphy.


Saturday Star

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