Another weekend, another piece of silverware for Welsh rugby? After the Cardiff Blues lifted the Amlin Challenge Cup in Marseilles and the Ospreys hoisted the Magners League trophy in Dublin, the Prince William Cup will be on the line on home ground at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon. It might otherwise be described as the scalp of the reigning world champions, although the opposition line-up that will take the field in Cardiff includes just six of the Springbok XV that beat England in the 2007 World Cup final, with only three starting in the same position.
Not that there would be less celebrating if Ryan Jones' side downed a weakened South Africa. The whole of Wales would be partying like it was 1999. As Warren Gatland, the national head coach, pointed out: "No one talks about the fact South Africa left 10 or 11 players at home on that occasion when Wales won."
That was on 26 June 1999, the opening event at a yet to be fully completed Millennium Stadium: a 29-19 success secured with tries by Mark Taylor and Gareth Thomas and 19 points from the boot of Neil Jenkins. It remains the only Welsh win in 104 years of playing the Springboks. "I don't care who we're playing against in terms of individuals," Gatland said. "We just want to win. If we can win against South Africa it gives us great confidence going on tour."
After this, Gatland takes the players to his native New Zealand for Tests against the All Blacks in Dunedin on 19 June and Hamilton on 26 June. Wales have never won in the "Land of the Long White Cloud" and their prospects of making history are not helped by the absence of several key players: the injured Gethin Jenkins and Shane Williams, the rested Martyn Williams. James Hook is due for shoulder surgery but at least Wales have the inside-centre today.
The Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, hands debuts to the Stormers trio Juan De Jongh at inside- centre, Gio Aplan on the right wing and Francois Low at blindside flanker.
"There are guys here who have the opportunity to prove themselves and become contenders for places in the squad going forward," he said. So no Bryan Habana or Schalk Burger, but no Springbok coach contemplates defeat. "We come here as a full-blooded Springbok team and we expect to perform. Our aim is to be successful."
Wales L Byrne (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues), J Hook (Ospreys), J Roberts (Blues), T Prydie (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets), AR Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), D Jones (Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys), S Warburton (Blues), R Jones (Ospreys, capt).
Replacements: H Bennett (Ospreys), J Yapp (Blues), AW Jones (Ospreys), R McCusker (Scarlets), R Rees (Blues), D Biggar (Ospreys), A Bishop (Ospreys).
South Africa F Steyn (Racing Metro); G Aplon (Stormers), J Fourie (Stormers), J De Jongh (Stormers), O Ndungane (Sharks); R Pienaar (Sharks), R Januarie (Stormers); CJ van der Linde (Leinster), J Smit (Sharks, capt), BJ Botha (Ulster), D Rossouw (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), F Louw (Stormers), D Potgieter (Bulls), J van Niekerk (Toulon).
Replacements C Ralepelle (Bulls), J du Plessis (Sharks), A Hargreaves (Sharks), R Kankowski (Sharks), M Bosman (Cheetahs), Z Kirchner (Bulls), B Basson (Cheetahs).
Referee A Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content