Preview – The Springboks “B” Side Has A Lot To Prove In Bloemfontein


The Springboks will have to improve a lot in their second Test against Wales in the Castle Lager Incoming Series at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday, after stumbling to a three points win at Loftus Versveld a week ago.

Both Pollard and Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick rubbished suggestions that the Bok team was a “B side” after a squad featuring 14 new faces in the starting team and six debutantes in the match-day squad of 23 players was named and said the side was determined to prove themselves.

The Springboks must brace themselves for a big battle. Wales will not stand back from any physicality that the Springboks might bring and might, as they did in Pretoria, do their best to get under the skin of the Boks with their own antics. The senior Springbok players will/must play a key role in keeping everyone calm and collected.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named two uncapped players in his starting lineup and a further four among the replacements as he reshuffled his squad to build depth.

Two players who have been in hot form recently, Kurt-Lee Arendse (outside back) and Evan Roos (No 8), have been handed starts, while Ntuthuko Mchunu (prop), Ruan Nortje (lock), Deon Fourie (utility forward) and Grant Williams (scrumhalf) could make their debuts off the bench.

Three players in the match-23 retained their places in the squad from last week’s 32-29 victory in the opening Test against Wales, namely experienced lock Eben Etzebeth, who will earns his 99th cap for South Africa on Saturday, while prop Vincent Koch and utility back Damian Willemse have been included on the bench.

Furthermore, experienced flyhalf Handre Pollard, who returns to the squad after not featuring in the first Test, will take over the captaincy from Siya Kolisi this week.

Nienaber stressed that while building winning momentum was vital as the international season picks up steam, one of the key facets for the team was building depth, especially with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“We said from the outset that we needed to strike a balance between giving our talented young players an opportunity to show what they can do at international level, and winning,” said Nienaber.

“If one looks at the balance between players who have played at this level and those who have performed consistently well for their franchises and clubs, I think we have a nice balance in this squad.

“A number of these players have been with us for a few seasons, while others travelled with us last season to Australia for the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the year-end tour, and then there are a few new faces who showed during the season that they have the potential to rise to this level of the game, so we are excited to see what they can do on Saturday.

“Wales showed last week that they are fighters and can go for the full 80 minutes and we are expecting nothing different from them this week. This will certainly be a good test for the younger players in the group to measure themselves against some of the best players in Wales, some of whom played for the British & Irish Lions, so everyone knows they will be in for a proper Test on Saturday.”

Nienaber again opted for a split of six forwards and two backs on the bench, with Willemse’s versatility seeing him able to cover flyhalf, centre and fullback, while Williams, who has been waiting in the wings at scrumhalf, provides cover at for his provincial team-mate Jaden Hendrikse.

“We are delighted to see these players get an opportunity at this level and I believe if they play to their potential, they will bolster our depth going forward,” said Nienaber.

“They are all very excited at the prospect of wearing the green and gold, but they also know what Wales will bring on the day and that every opportunity will be important.”

On handing the captaincy the Pollard, the Bok coach said: “Handre is one of our most experienced players and has been part of our core leadership group for a number of years now, I’m sure he will slot into the role with ease.”

Looking ahead at the match, Nienaber said: “Wales will certainly gain confidence from their performance last week, and I have no doubt they will feel aggrieved by the fact that they lost out so narrowly, so we know we have to produce a top-class performance to win this weekend.

“The set pieces are going to be a key area once again, and we have identified the areas that we need to improve on and have already started working on those facets of the game.

“They are a team that keep going until the final whistle, so we expect them to push us to the limit, but we know what our standards are a team, and every player knows what is expected of him.

“It is definitely going to take a full 80-minute effort to win the match, and if we do well, hopefully the results will take of itself.”

Head coach Wayne Pivac has named the Wales senior men’s team with one change to the starting line-up, with Alex Cuthbert coming in on the wing for his 52nd cap.

George North, starting again at centre alongside Nick Tompkins, will equal Stephen Jones’ record as the most-capped Welsh men’s international back of all time with 104 when he takes to the field on Saturday.

Only Alun Wyn Jones (151) – named as a replacement for the second Test this weekend – and defence coach Gethin Jenkins (129) have more Wales caps.

Sam Wainwright could be in line to make his senior international debut from the bench. Wyn Jones and Josh Adams are the other changes among Wales’ replacements for the second of three Tests against the Springboks.

Pivac said: “Alex Cuthbert has been training really well. He’s six foot four, good in the air and runs all day. I think there will be plenty of aerial battles.

“Sam Wainwright has been very excited to join us. From day one he’s been training really well. I know he’s over the moon at his selection in the match day 23 and his family are over here so he’s looking forward to a big day.

“It was a great atmosphere last week and we’re expecting more of the same from the crowd in Bloemfontein this Saturday.”

On the South African side head coach Jacques Nienaber named earlier this week, Pivac added: “It hasn’t changed our preparation at all. It’s going to be 15 rugby players in green shirts. We’re expecting more of the same. They are a very experienced team no matter what combinations they put out. This side is one to be respected and not taken lightly.”


South Africa: 15. Warrick Gelant, 14. Kurt Lee Arendse, 13. Jesse Kriel, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Aphelele Fassi, 10. Handre Pollard (c), 9. Jaden Henrikse, 8. Evan Roos, 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Marvin Orie, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Trevor Nyakane, 2. Joseph Dweba, 1. Thomas du Toit. Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Ruan Nortje, 20. Rynhardt Elstadt, 21. Deon Fourie, 22. Grant Williams, 23. Damian Willemse.

Wales: 15. Liam Williams, 14. Louis Rees-Zammit, 13. George North, 12. Nick Tompkins, 11. Alex Cuthbert, 10. Dan Biggar (c), 9. Kieran Hardy, 8. Taulupe Faletau, 7. Tommy Reffell, 6. Dan Lydiate, 5. Adam Beard, 4. Will Rowlands, 3. Dillon Lewis, 2. Ryan Elias, 1. Gareth Thomas. Replacements: 16. Dewi Lake, 17. Wyn Jones, 18. Sam Wainwright, 19. Alun Wyn Jones, 20. Josh Navidi, 21. Tomos Williams, 22. Gareth Anscombe, 23. Josh Adams.