Best of the best clash

Bryan Habana fans can see him in action again on the international scene today. (GETTY IMAGES)

If you are a rugby fan then Wales' two-Test tour of South Africa [first match today in Bloemfontein at 5pm] is not something you will want to miss.

It pits the Grand Slam winning Six Nations Champions against last year's World Cup winners. In short, it is a match-up of the best team from the northern hemisphere against the best team in the world. Although, New Zealand fans may argue against the "best in the world" fact, a mention of the Webb Ellis trophy that the Springboks won at the World Cup should silence them until the opening match of the Tri-nations, which incidentally is something else you might not want to miss on July 5 in Wellington.

Wales swept through the Six Nations undefeated, humbling World Cup finalists England and semi-finalists France and gave new coach Warren Gatland a dream start. But, what they face in South Africa today will be an entirely different prospect.

The Welsh have always been a free-flowing attack-minded side and they showed that once again in the Six Nations with winger Shane Williams leading the way. Another aspect they have added to their play under Gatland is a resilient defence, which was key in their Grand Slam victories and will be even more important in South Africa.

The Springboks, meanwhile, have lost World Cup winning coach Jake White, but the new man in charge, Peter de Villiers, will be aware it won't be wise to make wholesale changes to tactics straight away. He will also know that he needs to prove critics, who claim he has the position only because he is non-white, wrong by sweeping aside Wales.

De Villiers has kept the core of White's World Cup winning squad, including captain John Smit who will lead the Springboks for a record 50th time today, with a few additions of his own. The strength in South African rugby is such that besides New Zealand – and even they rely on Pacific Island players of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji to boost their ranks – no other country can boast of the depth of quality playing talent available.

So whoever walks out on that field today, Wales will know they are in a battle of their lives. The visitors have never beaten South Africa in six attempts and their recent loss came in Gatland's first game in charge – immediately after the World Cup last year.

The Springboks style of play is simple: they destroy teams up front with their physical forwards and counter-attack at pace. Their defence ranks among the best and while their forwards are their true strength – the fact that their back-line consists of players such as Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn, who can all individually win games, makes them the true favourites.

In the other rugby fixtures today, New Zealand play host to Ireland while Scotland visit Argentina.

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