Wales look to muscle up against Springboks
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — Wales believes it will give a better show in the second rugby test against the Springboks on Saturday after being swept aside in the first in Durban.
Wales was battered 38-16 at Kings Park last Saturday, the result certain by halftime. A team with 10 British Lions and more than 700 caps failed to deal with South Africa’s muscle and intensity, and lost to the Boks a 15th straight time.
The Welsh took the loss on their bruised chins, but realised they went in underdone. Most hadn’t played rugby in a month, and struggled to get up to speed. The Springboks’ muscular back row set up the solid base from which fullback Willie le Roux created three tries and scored another.
“What made it worse was it felt like South Africa did not have to work particularly hard for any of their points,” flyhalf Dan Biggar said.
“What can we do? Give up this week and take another hammering, or do we roll our sleeves up, show a bit of mental toughness and togetherness, and try and go out and put in a spirited performance and upset the odds?
“That is the view we are taking. That’s the way to go rather than feeling sorry for ourselves and thinking it will be the same again.
“We are hoping it won’t be. We have dusted ourselves down, we have some very strong characters in this camp, and we want to surprise the Boks on Saturday.”
Coach Warren Gatland has attempted to shore up his pack by replacing Aaron Shingler with bulkier Scarlets teammate Josh Turnbull, and starting 21-year-old tighthead prop Samson Lee for Adam Jones, who played his 100th test in Durban.
It was widely expected that Jones, 33, would be dropped to the bench after he was replaced by Lee just 32 minutes into the first test, and Gatland has gone further by leaving both Jones and Shingler out of the matchday squad.
“Adam was disappointed with us taking him off, and the way he played,” Gatland said. “We appreciate that as well because of what he’s achieved, but it doesn’t matter who you are, the expectations are you’ve got to go out there and perform.”
Lee has been earmarked as a World Cup prospect by Gatland, with the Scarlets player leapfrogging Rhodri Jones in the queue after the latter finished the Six Nations as Wales’ starting tighthead.
“Samson and Josh deserve the chance after impressing last weekend,” Gatland said.
It seems unlikely the changes will fully address the shortcomings that were so evident in the first test, but they do increase Wales’ depth heading toward next year’s World Cup.
South Africa has also made two changes in its pack, with prop Tendai Mtawarira and lock Flip van der Merwe replacing Gurthro Steenkamp and Bakkies Botha.
Coach Heyneke Meyer has also brought in cover at center in the wake of Francois Steyn’s decision to walk away from international rugby and Juan de Jongh’s withdrawal through illness, with Wynand Olivier going straight onto the bench after his addition to the squad.
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will pass former captain John Smit’s record as the most capped Springbok when he takes the field for his 112th test.
The 37-year-old made his debut in 2001 and announced his retirement after the 2011 World Cup, only to return at the beginning of this year.
“I said to Victor that his comeback mustn’t be about records or anything like that. I wanted him to help out by coming off the bench, and now he is playing 80 minutes and is captain,” Meyer said.
“I am very proud of what he has achieved. It is remarkable that he can come back so well after two years in retirement. It is a storybook ending for him, although hopefully it isn’t the end because I expect a lot more from him.”
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield (captain), Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Schalk Brits, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier, Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales: Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Mike Phillips; Taulupe Faletau, Josh Turnbull, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Luke Charteris, Samson Lee, Ken Owens, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Matthew Rees, Paul James, Aaron Jarvis, Jake Ball, Dan Baker, Gareth Davies, James Hook, Matthew Morgan.