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De Villiers predicts Wales shake-up


Peter de Villiers

Peter de Villiers

Peter de Villiers

South Africa coach Peter de Villiers expects Wales to make changes at half-back ahead of the clash between the sides at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The main talking point in the Principality has been over who will wear the number nine and 10 jerseys following a guileless display behind the scrum in the 25-16 defeat to Australia. Cardiff Blues scrum-half Richie Rees is pushing Mike Phillips hard for the starting role after proving lively in a try-scoring appearance as a replacement last Saturday, while James Hook could usurp Stephen Jones at fly-half.

De Villiers said: "We expect them to make changes at half-back to speed up the game, to present the ball and get it away quickly. I think they will opt for a quicker scrum-half and have the decision-making around Hook and Jones to bring an extra dynamic to their game and bring the players out wide into the game."

On Tuesday De Villiers named a side that saw only one change from the starting XV that defeated Ireland 23-21 at the Aviva Stadium last weekend, with Racing Metro star Francois Steyn drafted straight into the centre after joining the squad on Sunday.

Wales coach Warren Gatland will have to make at least one change when he names his side on Thursday, with flanker Sam Warburton ruled out for two to three weeks with a calf problem, while the New Zealander also hopes to have full-back Lee Byrne and captain Ryan Jones available.

"They may also bring in the big number eight (Andy Powell) who caused us so many problems here a couple of years ago," De Villiers added.

Saturday's game is set to see another relatively low turnout at the Millennium Stadium. There were over 20,000 seats left empty for the defeat to the Wallabies and, with South Africa having played in the Welsh capital as recently as June, only around 40,000 tickets have been sold ahead of this weekend's clash.

There were also blocks of empty seats in Dublin last Saturday, and Scotland have only sold 51,000 tickets for Saturday's meeting with New Zealand at Murrayfield, but when asked for his opinion De Villiers responded that, given South Africa's relatively poor form in 2010, he will only be keeping an eye on on-field matters.

"If you had been in my shoes for the last three months, I am focusing on rugby and rugby only and if we can get away with a good performance and a win," he said.

"It would be nice to play in front of a good crowd but 50 people can make a lot of noise, and I hope that all the crowd in there will have green jerseys!"