2022 South Africa vs Wales

South Africa Preview: World No. 1 Hopes To Take Care Of Business

South Africa Preview: World No. 1 Hopes To Take Care Of Business

South African rugby often is a thing of beauty. Cool and calculated, the Springboks are preparing to put their World Cup title on the line.

Jun 28, 2022 by Briar Napier
South Africa Preview: World No. 1 Hopes To Take Care Of Business

South African rugby often is a thing of beauty.

The three-time Rugby World Cup-winning nation is one of the premier forces on the sport's international stage, and that's proven no different as of late, as the national team has the look of a side that could win a historic fourth title, officially putting it a step above all of its other world rivals.

Cool and calculated in their rugby, the Springboks now enter the final full year of competition before they have to put their World Cup title back on the line. The moves the team makes from now until then will be critical in their hope of ensuring that South Africa stays on the top of the table.

What's ahead for the Boks as they prepare for a trio of matches at home against Wales? 

Here's a look at what's to come for the world's top-ranked side with those tests ahead and streamed live on FloRugby:

A Happy Homecoming

It has been almost three years since South Africa won its most recent Rugby World Cup in 2019 in Japan, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent restrictions, the Springboks haven't had a return match to celebrate in front of a capacity crowd since then. 

Because the South African government lifted all limitations on public gatherings and events last week, the Boks could be greeted by nearly 52,000 rugby-mad attendees July 2 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria for the first match in a three-test series against Wales. 

It's a shame South Africa hasn't been able to be in front of full stadiums for so long because the Springboks have been the class of the rugby world for almost all of that time. 

Having been the world's No. 1-ranked side for all but two weeks since winning the World Cup final in Yokohama, South Africa had a strong end to 2021, with consecutive wins over New Zealand, Wales and Scotland, before a narrow one-point loss to close out the year against England. All matches listed were played away from home. 

Coach Jacques Nienaber didn't exactly have the easiest of jobs to do following his appointment in January 2020 (pandemic, no prior head coaching experience, pressure following a World Cup win, etc.), but the longtime national team assistant has aced most tests put before him thus far, putting the Boks in prime position next year to potentially be just the second team - after New Zealand - to win consecutive Rugby World Cups.

Wales Won't Be Easy

Records can be a bit deceiving, and there's a great example of that being true when looking at the prior rugby history between South Africa and Wales. 

The Springboks are 30-1-6 all-time against the Welsh, a run that included 15 straight Boks wins from 2000-2014, the last two tests of which came when Wales last toured South Africa.

However, coach Wayne Pivac's Wales has won five of the past eight meetings and lost by a combined 12 points across the other three meetings, quickly making Wales-South Africa in recent times one of the most consistently exciting fixtures in world rugby. 

Because of that recent history, it would be unfair to simply write off the Welsh as underdogs next month, especially considering that some of the most decorated names in the sport - such as lock and captain Alun Wyn Jones, the most-capped player (150) in the history of the game - still are going strong for the national side. 

Still, the Springboks undoubtedly will come into the series with the expectation of three wins in three matches, especially with the talent the squad has and in having full home stadiums behind it once again. 

Just don't be fooled into thinking that despite the difference in world ranking (No. 1 vs. No. 9) that all the games will be uncompetitive snooze fests. However, the recent tests have indeed been defensive-heavy as neither nation has scored more than 24 points in any of the past five matches.

Squad Size Gives Boks Options

With South Africa featuring one of the richest talent pools in world rugby, squad selection can get difficult at points for Nienaber. 

The solution? Bring a massive 43-man roster along for the ride. 

Only 23 players will make the matchday squads, but the numbers brought along for development camp signal that Nienaber is evaluating his options both for The Rugby Championship later this year and, for further along, defending his team's Rugby World Cup crown from the touchline next year. 

Full crowds finally will get to see the heroes from Japan three years ago with no pandemic-related restrictions. 

World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, elite fly-half Handre Pollard and center Damian de Allende are some of the more well-known names on the list, but the overall strength and power possessed by the Springboks' scrum - a critical part of their most recent World Cup triumph - makes for a unit that has few or no equals internationally. 

However, the uncapped names on the roster could make for intriguing pieces against Wales, too. 

Loose forward Evan Roos was the player of the year in the recently-finished United Rugby Championship, with the 22-year-old Stormers star hoping to break through into the national side as a young talent to watch. 

Roos' teammate, Deon Fourie, also is uncapped and coming off a Man of the Match performance in the URC final over the Bulls, but at 35 years old, is hoping to get a maiden Springboks appearance as the prime of his career wears thin.