There are so many battles both internal and external raging for the Springboks that it’s hard to tell which is the most important when they take on Wales at the Millennium Stadium today.
Captain Adriaan Strauss, playing his 66th and final test and leading the most inexperienced Springbok team since 1994, has pinpointed the breakdown as the key area of the match.
Wales are without fetcher-in-chief Sam Warburton for this clash but, with Justin Tipuric deputising, the home team will hardly be hampered in that crucial area of the game.
The breakdown has been an area of weakness for the Boks on this tour because they have no recognised openside flank in their squad. Nizaam Carr will again wear the No 6 jersey, even though Italy’s Simone Favaro dominated that contest during last week’s 20-18 victory for the Azzurri.
Strauss admitted that Warburton’s absence was unlikely to change the fact that the Boks at least have to gain parity in that discipline or face a record eighth defeat in a calendar year.
“Wales are especially good at the breakdown and they make excellent decisions there,” Strauss said.
“They usually get quick ball and from there create momentum to open up gaps in the defence and create scoring opportunities.”
Coach Allister Coetzee has cleaved experience from the squad, opting for four news caps in the 23.
Wing Jamba Ulengo, centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and flank Uzair Cassiem all start with loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez set for a cap from the bench. The coach has also turned to the Lions halfback pairing of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies.
With seven defeats in 11 tests so far in 2016, if the Boks lose an eighth, it would statistically be the worst return in the history of Springbok rugby.
There is an air of desperation in Coetzee’s selection and with a back line boasting only 40 caps between them, it’s hard to imagine how they can compete with a Welsh back division filled with 335 caps’ worth of experience.
The element of surprise could work and Janse van Rensburg’s ability to get over the gain line could give the Boks crucial momentum for quick ball.
The Springboks should lose, and it could be by a large margin, which would heap even more pressure on the beleaguered coach. But he has vowed not to walk away regardless of the result.