Johannesburg - Wales have never won a Test match in South Africa in 57 years of trying and if they are to break their duck in July it will be under a new captain in Dan Biggar, and not the old warhorse Alun Wyn Jones who bust a gut trying to win with the Lions in SA last year.
The 36-year-old Wyn Jones was incandescent with rage and disappointment after his British and Irish Lions team lost the third Test to the Springboks just under a year ago and while he still has an opportunity for revenge in July as a player, it is Biggar who has been preferred to lead the side by coach Wayne Pivac.
Jones, who has been capped 150 times for Wales, has been the captain of Wales since Sam Warburton retired in 2017, but Pivac has said Wyn Jones’ lack of game time over the last year has made Biggar a better bet as skipper.
Pivac says he wants Wyn Jones to concentrate on his game during the three-Test series and let Biggar make the decisions.
While the Boks have played matches in Wales since 1906 — Paul Roos’ team won 8-6 in Swansea — the first time Wales played in South Africa was in 1964. The Boks beat them 24-3 at Kings Park in that game and nine further visits to the Boks have been just as unsuccessful, and indeed the biggest defeat in the history of Welsh rugby occurred at Loftus Versfeld in 1998 when Nick Mallett’s team annihilated the Men from the Valleys 96-13.
Overall, of the 37 matches played between the countries, the Boks have won 30, there has been one draw and Wales has won six — all of them at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and since 1999.
In 2022, at stake is the Prince William Cup which was created in 2006 to celebrate 100 years of rugby between Wales and South Africa.
The New Zealand-born Pivac says his squad understands the magnitude of the task ahead of them.
"This three-Test Series is going to be a challenge,” he said. “It always has been, history shows that and certainly, that’s what we’re looking to achieve – to get a victory there if not two and win a series. The first two Tests at altitude that’s going to be a challenge, so first and foremost we’ve got to do a lot of preparation here in Wales before we go and make sure we are in the best shape possible to perform well.”
On the captaincy, Pivac added: “Dan Biggar is named captain. We’ve obviously got great leadership in the group with Alun Wyn and Dan. Dan did well (as caretaker captain) in the Six Nations and Al has come back from a pretty big injury layoff. He’s had a little bit of rugby and we want him to hit his straps as a lock and be the best player he can be and focus on playing. He’ll lead naturally anyway but certainly, he’s looking forward to that challenge.”
The first Test will be held in Pretoria on Saturday 2 July. From there the series moves to Bloemfontein (9 July) for the second Test, before finishing in Cape Town on Saturday 16 July.
Forwards: Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Gareth Thomas, Ryan Elias, Dewi Lake, Sam Parry, Leon Brown, Tomas Francis, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Ben Carter, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands, Taine Basham, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Lydiate, Josh Navidi, James Ratti, Tommy Reffell
Backs: Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar (capt), Rhys Patchell, George North, Nick Tompkins, Owen Watkin, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams, Alex Cuthbert, Louis Rees-Zammit, Liam Williams.