Wales brings Williams in for Halfpenny; Springboks unchanged
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Gareth Anscombe was retained at flyhalf and Liam Williams brought in for the injured Leigh Halfpenny at fullback as Wales seeks a clean sweep of its end-of-year tests against South Africa on Saturday.
Williams for Halfpenny, who hasn't recovered from a concussion, was the only change Wales coach Warren Gatland made on Thursday to the XV that beat Australia 9-6 two weeks ago.
South Africa selected the same starting team that beat Scotland 26-20 in an arm wrestle last weekend, opting to give scrumhalf Embrose Papier another tryout despite the availability of first-choice Faf de Klerk.
Coach Rassie Erasmus did bring 74-test lock Eben Etzebeth onto the bench after he was injured in the loss to England and missed tight victories in France and Scotland.
For Wales, Williams scored two tries at left wing in his 50th test in the 74-24 blowout against Tonga last weekend, when Gatland rested many of his front-liners ahead of the Springboks test. He was entrusted with the No. 15 jersey against the rebuilding Springboks as Gatland resisted any temptation to switch Anscombe to fullback.
Wales goes for a fourth win from four games in the November series for the first time ever, and a ninth straight victory. It would equal Wales' previous best run back in 1999.
"We have rewarded the team that faced Australia with another start this weekend," Gatland said.
Wales starts as favorite having won the last three encounters, and four out of the last five, including in June when Wales triumphed in the United States in Erasmus' first test in charge of the Boks.
Erasmus said Wales was "definitely the most difficult opponent we will face on this tour."
"We will be desperate to win and to end the tour on a high would be fantastic for the experience and growth of this squad," said Erasmus.
Despite the impressive show by some backup Wales players against Tonga, Gatland opted for his tried and tested. He retained his first-choice combinations in the forward pack, at scrumhalf-flyhalf with Gareth Davies and Anscombe, and on the wings with Josh Adams and George North helping Williams in the back three.
"There were a lot of tough selection calls, but that is what we want," Gatland said.
"We want to end the campaign with a big performance against a very good South African side."
Halfpenny's injury does, however, remove Wales' first-choice goalkicker. Gatland had the option of bringing reliable kicker Dan Biggar into the team at 10 and dropping Anscombe to 15, where he has played before.
Halfpenny was concussed in a late tackle by Australia center Samu Kerevi, a hit that drew criticism as reckless from the Welsh camp but went unpunished by officials.
Flanker Siya Kolisi was available to captain South Africa in Cardiff after he was given just a warning for an apparent head-butt with the back of his head to the face of Scotland's Peter Horne as Horne held him on the ground in last weekend's test — another highly scrutinized incident.
Wales: Liam Williams, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Gareth Davies; Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Adam Beard, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Nicky Smith. Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Dillon Lewis, Cory Hill, Ellis Jenkins, Tomos Williams, Dan Biggar, Owen Watkin.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Embrose Papier; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.