WALES lock Jake Ball expects a typically brutal assault by the Springboks on Saturday – and hopes he will be the man picked to take them head-on.

The Scarlets powerhouse made his Test return with a fine display against Tonga on Saturday, featuring for the first time since suffering a horror shoulder injury against New Zealand in the autumn of 2017.

Warren Gatland has a tough decision to make in his boilerhouse with three players tussling to be captain Alun Wyn Jones' partner in the bid for a first autumn clean sweep.

Promising Osprey Adam Beard has had a strong series while Dragons captain Cory Hill has grown on the Test stage since stepping in for Ball last November.

But the Scarlets man would appear to be the bulkiest option to combat a South Africa pack that has helped earn narrow wins in France and Scotland since being edged out by England.

"I will leave that to the coaches," replied Ball when asked if his game suited the style needed against the Boks. "I wanted to put my best foot forward against Tonga. We spoke a lot about playing as a team and I felt we did that.

"They are certainly physical games (against the Springboks). Looking at the way they have been playing it is like watching the South Africa of old, they have gone more direct, picking physical players and I have no doubt that is where they will be looking to come on Saturday."

With Seb Davies, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies and Rory Thornton also in the running in World Cup year, Ball is being driven by competition.

"It is great, boys have really put their hands up and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with Beardy, I thought he did a great job," said the Scarlet. "It is very, very exciting and it will only help us in the long term as well.

"The depth is across the board, in every position. It is the strongest Welsh squad I have seen since I have been involved.

"I know for a fact that with the World Cup coming up and with the injuries that happen it is going to be key."

The return against Tonga was an emotional one for Ball after being forced to watch on from the sidelines this autumn.

"I had to wait for my opportunity, but it was awesome to be back in that shirt," he said. "It has been well documented, it has been a frustrating 12 months for me.

"It is hard to explain my feelings before the game. Certainly, having to watch games and not be involved was a big driving factor.

"That's rugby. If you are unlucky to pick up an injury and are out for that long, that's what happens. "Someone comes in, they get their chance and it so happens those boys did well when I wasn't there. I have had to sort of rebuild and regather myself.

"It was about me trying to put down a marker. Sometimes when you are not about for a year you get a little bit forgotten about and I just hope to try and stir things up a little bit.

"I am building. I have been quite happy with my game since coming back from injury. I have been working hard, working on different aspects of my game as well and for me it is about being as physical as I can be on the field."