Preview: Springboks ease to victory over Wales
November 24, 2007

Gavin Henson will make his first Test start for more than a year when Wales tackle world champions South Africa at the Millennium Stadium this weekend.

The Ospreys centre has been recalled by caretaker coach Nigel Davies.

Henson's last full Wales appearance was against Australia in November last year - and that was his first since the 2005 Grand Slam.

Davies has chosen an all-Ospreys midfield on Saturday, with Henson partnering Sonny Parker in the centre and James Hook featuring at fly-half.

It means that Cardiff Blues and World Cup centre Tom Shanklin moves to the wing.

Llanelli Scarlets' fly-half Stephen Jones was originally slated to start on the bench but was later ruled out by a thigh injury with Dragons' ceri Sweeney joining the replacements.

Scarlets' full-back, 23-year-old Morgan Stoddart, will make his Wales debut - after injury ruled out Ospreys' Lee Byrne.

Cardiff Blues prop Gethin Jenkins will captain Wales, while his fellow prop - South Africa-born Rhys Thomas - is rewarded for some impressive form in Newport Gwent Dragons colours.

The back-row vacancy created by flanker Martyn Williams' post-World Cup retirement from international rugby is filled by his Cardiff colleague Robin Sowden-Taylor.

Davies said: "Gavin's partnership with both James Hook and Sonny Parker at the Ospreys has been going well of late, which is the main reason for going with that combination.

"We have had our hand forced a little in the backs with injuries to both Lee Byrne and Jamie Robinson ruling them out of contention, but the result is a pretty exciting new-look back line which I am sure can make South Africa stand up and take notice.

"Morgan has been in a rich vein of form of late, and if he can retain his composure in what will be a cauldron atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium and allow his talent to shine through, then he could make quite a debut.''

South Africa will field nine of their victorious World Cup final starting line-up against at the Millennium Stadium.

Despite several players missing the two-match tour - South Africa meet the Barbarians at Twickenham on Saturday week - Springboks coach Jake White can still field a strong side.

World Cup-winning captain John Smit leads a team that contains just one new cap - Natal Sharks number eight Ryan Kankowski.

Smit is joined on Saturday by fellow World Cup final starters JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana, CJ Van Der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and Juan Smith.

It will be South Africa's first match since they landed the Webb Ellis Trophy by beating England in Paris on October 20.

Notable absentees include full-back Percy Montgomery, half-backs Butch James and Fourie Du Preez, lock Victor Matfield and number eight Danie Rossouw.

Sharks loose-forward Ryan Kankowski will earn his first Springbok cap as the only player in the starting line-up who was not in the World Cup squad.

Three other players who were not in France are on the bench. They are Conrad Jantjes, Heinke Van Der Merwe and Hilton Lobberts.

The Wales Test will be White's final full international match in charge of the Springboks.

White has yet to make any decision about his future, although he has been linked to a possible role with England.

White said: "It looked like it might be a bit of an inexperienced team, but when you put it together, there is enough there for us to feel confident we can get a result.

"I know this is the swansong for me, but I am not unhappy about it. I am very content about where we are as a group.

"The brief when I took over as coach was that we wanted to be world number one and world champions, and I've been lucky enough and privileged enough to be part of it.

"It's great for me it (final Test) is in a massive stadium like the Millennium Stadium and in a rugby country like Wales.''

With Wales in a kind of no-man's land ahead of New Zealander Warren Gatland's arrival as their new head coach next week, South Africa are unlikely to come unstuck, despite missing some key personnel.

But White is taking nothing for granted, adding: "It is quite an interesting Wales team - it is quite a bold team.

"There is a lot of talk about (James) Hook and (Gavin) Henson playing together in midfield, and it will be interesting to see how that combines.

"The talk is that Wales are going to have a full go at getting some width going, and it will be a challenge to us.''

Wales: M Stoddart (Llanelli Scarlets); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), S Parker (Ospreys), G Henson (Ospreys), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues); J Hook (Ospreys), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues, capt), H Bennett (Ospreys), R Thomas (Newport Gwent Dragons), I Evans (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), C Charvis (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Sowden-Taylor (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys).

Replacements: T R Thomas (Cardiff Blues), D Jones (Ospreys), L Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys), C Sweeney (Dragons), T James (Cardiff Blues).

South Africa: R Pienaar (Natal Sharks); J P Pietersen (Natal Sharks), J Fourie (Golden Lions), F Steyn (Natal Sharks), B Habana (Blue Bulls); A Pretorius (Golden Lions), R Januarie (Golden Lions); C J Van Der Linde (Free State), J Smit (Clermont Auvergne, capt), J Du Plessis (Free State), B Botha (Blue Bulls), J Muller (Natal Sharks), S Burger (Western Province), J Smith (Free State), R Kankowski (Natal Sharks).

Replacements: B Du Plessis (Natal Sharks), H Van Der Merwe (Golden Lions), A Van Den Berg (Natal Sharks), H Lobberts (Blue Bulls), W Olivier (Blue Bulls), A Ndungane (Blue Bulls), C Jantjes (Golden Lions).

Referee: Chris White (England).

Touch judges: Dave Pearson (England) and David Changleng (Scotland).

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