Cardiff, United Kingdom – Wales are ready for an arm-wrestle when they meet the ever-robust South Africans in a one-off international on Saturday, according to assistant coach Rob Howley.
Both teams are packed with experienced campaigners and a bruising encounter is on the cards as Wales seek just a second victory over the Springboks in 107 years of competition.
“It's going to be an arm-wrestle,” predicted Howley. “That's the nature of international rugby when two world-class outfits come together.
“The (Wales) players are very enthusiastic as you should be for first game up in autumn against one of the top sides in world rugby.
“When you see their side that was selected, it's pretty impressive. There are world-class players throughout that team, and what world class players do is play under pressure – that's going to be key on Saturday.”
But Howley added: “We have 11 British Lions selected, we've got experience. It's going to be a great game to watch, and not for the faint-hearted.”
The former Wales and British Lion scrum-half said he expected the kicking game to be crucial, hinting that Pat Lambie would be targeted as the Boks' full-back in place of Zane Kirchner, named on the bench.
“I'm sure there'll be a fair amount of kicking, the aerial battle as ever will be key when you play South Africa,” Howley said.
“Lambie defends slightly differently from Kirchner. His ability to kick the ball points us in the direction, maybe, of what South Africa will come with.
“The roof will be closed, so hopefully it'll be a nice dry park and we can play some rugby and South Africa can play rugby as well.
“Whether it's Lambie or Kirchner playing at full-back, no doubt there's going to be exchanges early on in the kicking game.
“Lambie hasn't started at 15 for South Africa in the last couple of weeks in the Championship, so obviously there's going to be an exchange of kicking.”
Saturday's match at the Millennium Stadium will be the first time the two countries have met since the Springboks edged a 2011 World Cup pool game in Wellington 17-16.
Wales, however, went on to reach the semi-finals and take successive Six Nations titles.
Yet the fact remains Wales have beaten South Africa just once in 26 internationals stretching back 107 years, back in 1999.
There was a late injury withdrawal for Wales, with winger Eli Walker missing out on his chance to debut after pulling up in training with a hamstring injury.
“It's a shame for Eli but we have to make sure we focus on the weekend,” said Howley. “I'm ready for a huge game.” – Sapa-AFP