Wales look to Mike Phillips as they try to improve record against South Africa

Home side have a dismal record against Southern Hemisphere ‘big three’

 Wales player Mike Phillips is currently without a club. Photograph:  Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wales player Mike Phillips is currently without a club. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fri, Nov 8, 2013, 19:10

Mike Phillips has been backed to put a torrid few weeks behind him and deliver the goods for Wales against South Africa today.

The Wales scrumhalf makes his first playing appearance in more than a month after being suspended and then sacked by French club Bayonne for allegedly turning up drunk at a video analysis session.

Phillips has said he intends to take legal action against his former employers, but he is currently without a club as Wales prepare to face their opening autumn opponents.

The reigning Six Nations champions, though, have no qualms about 77-times-capped Phillips’ mental and physical state ahead of the Millennium Stadium Springboks showdown.

“We can expect a good solid performance from Mike,” Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde said. “He has probably got to prove his worth. However, there is no better big-match player than Mike Phillips.”

Phillips will be key to Wales’ bid for only a second victory against one of rugby union’s Southern Hemisphere giants since Warren Gatland took charge five years ago.

While Wales have won three Six Nations titles, two Grand Slams and reached a World Cup semi-final during that time, their record against the so-called “big three” has been abysmal.

Wales can reflect on just one win at South Africa’s expense from 26 attempts, and that was 14 years ago.

Alun-Wyn Jones led the Lions to a series-clinching success in Sydney last June, and he will undoubtedly be an instrumental figure behind Wales’ victory quest when he lines up alongside eight of his Lions third Test team-mates.

“We need to start getting these scalps. We’ve been close in the last 12-18 months. and we need to start converting those narrow losses into wins,” Jones said.