Former All Blacks, Force and Lions coach JOHN MITCHELLlooks at where Saturday's big match will be won and lost.
Five points or less have separated the Springboks and Wales in their last four outings and at the 2011 World Cup, when the Boks won 17-16, James Hook missed two penalties and Rhys Priestland two drop kicks. I expect another close contest on Saturday, with the Boks edging Wales yet again.
Let's look at the the 10 key areas ...
1. Exit kicking. We should see Fourie du Preez kick more than Morné Steyn from the immediate kick receipt or set piece. When Steyn kicks, it will be into stands with a territorial gain of 50m. If he kicks infield after the Springboks have been under pressure, I expect the Welsh to bring this ball back and build more pressure with the ball in hand. I don't understand the selection of Pat Lambie at fullback because he does not have the running lines or pace that an international fullback requires. However, his longer exit kicking for territory and kicking for the corners may be the reason he has been selected. Or is it his ability to beat a defender on a running return?
2. Contestable kicking. I expect Du Preez to kick more tactically and with variety (either long or for the corners). The Welsh back three will have to contest those kicks with the Springbok chasers, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen (whose height is a big asset). The Springboks should aim to bring Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny forward to take the high balls, which would stop him from running at them and being available on his feet to run or kick.
3. Goal-kicking. Who would you back – Steyn or Halfpenny – to win this battle? I'd put my money on both of them!
4. Scrums. This is an interesting contest in which the Welsh may be superior. Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe will be making his Test debut against a scrum that destroyed the Wallabies four months ago. I believe the second-half front row/scrum is a weakness for the Springboks. Coenie Oosthuizen is not a tighthead and he enjoys going in and up, and does not activate tension on the opposing loosehead's neck, while Gurthrö Steenkamp scrums out and not through. Wales will attack this area.
5. Defence. Should the Springboks kick poorly from exit or present free kick-receipt ball, Wales will bring this ball back with a vengeance and build pressure with the ball. They would have seen how the Springboks wilt when having to defend for long periods of play. This Bok side is not as fit as it could be, which is noticeable in the effort areas of bouncing up off the floor and getting back into the defensive line, as well as when the forwards push up square on the inside and the player works hard on the inside of his team-mate. The possession stakes will determine how much tackling will be required by the Springboks. The Welsh love to use all the width in their attack and will ask questions of the Bok defence. The Welsh will be interested in double-hitting the square Bok ball-carrier and will get especially excited by the ball-before-shoulder lead.
6. Belief. The Springboks also beat a poor Wallabies team comfortably, so the Lions' series win in Australia will not be a 'fear factor' for the Boks. Wales, under Gatland, have lost 21 out of 22 matches against the big three southern hemisphere sides. I don't understand how some pundits can be comparing them to the England team that beat the big three 10 times in a row on their way to winning the 2003 World Cup. You've got to be kidding!
7. Selections to create the ideal team mix. Regardless of their ability, it will take time for Malherbe, Pietersen and Jaque Fourie to fit in with the Springboks. Expect them to be rusty when it comes to the intensity and tempo of game. However, should Malherbe get his scrumming right and his shoulder on in the tackle and finish the tackle, he could prove to be better than the injured Jannie du Plessis, whose tackle line and tackle finishing was costly for the Boks in the Rugby Championship. But I have a question mark over Malherbe's fitness and his ability to repeat effort. I would have started with Pieter-Steph du Toit in the middle of the lineout, and Lambie at flyhalf considering his state of mind after the Currie Cup final. In that match, he was assertive, controlled the game well, stood flatter on attack, and kicked well for territory and the corners when he needed to. That is the kind of flyhalf I like. However, I can understand Heyneke Meyer wanting all his best players in the team mix and it will be interesting to see if he can get a response from a player who has exceptional potential. The Springbok substitutes are an explosive lot. Wales, meanwhile will miss the injured Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert, who are both big backs.
8. The conditions. The roof will be closed on Saturday so neither side will have to deal with the bad weather, which would have suited the Boks' tactical-kicking and in-your-face game. The dry conditions will suit the Welsh attack.
9. The mental battle. Wales coach Warren Gatland chose not to meet with referee Alain Rolland, who red-carded Sam Warburton in their 2011 World Cup semi-final against France. Rolland must not let Gatland's petulant behaviour change the way he referees the game, because Gatland is probably hoping to get some favourable decisions for his side.
10. The start. The Boks must come out firing and blitz the Welsh. They also need to concentrate during the championship minutes – the 10 minutes before and after half-time – which was their undoing against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.
This is going to be a tight and brutal battle and it won't be pretty. The Boks have played a lot more together recently and will be excited by the return of some world-class players.
I'm expecting edge-of-your seat stuff, and the Boks to win by 3.