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Battle-hardened Springboks will be a handful for Welsh hopefuls

Published Jun 29, 2022

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Johannesburg - At first glance, the Springbok matchday 23 that will run out against Wales in the first Test on Saturday, looks formidable, perhaps even near-nigh unbeatable on their home turf but there are nevertheless a handful of concerns; avenues if you will; that the visitors could exploit.

The majority of the squad is made up of battle-hardened individuals that have played as recently as this past weekend that are both match-fit and in-form. There is, however, a core group of Japan-based players within the team that have not played rugby for over a month.

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That includes flyhalf Elton Jantjies, Franco Mostert in the No 7 jumper and lock Lood de Jager in the starting XV; and Malcolm Marx and Willie le Roux among the replacements.

The Japanese season completed on May 29 with Tokyo Sungoliath and Saitama Wild Knights in a final that no South Africans participated in.

Could this then be a chance for Wales to put those players under pressure who might be a bit rusty?

Not at all, Bok coach Jacques Nienaber insisted on Tuesday at the team announcement, as that particular concern cuts both ways.

“Luckily, the Japan-based players were a part of our preparation camp from the start,” explained the Bok mentor.

“We tried to mimic Test match intensity as much as possible but you will never create that in training sessions. It is a different beast when it comes to the game itself.

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“(It is similar) if you have a long preseason before you go into a club season. You have done as much as possible to make them as contact ready as possible and as conditioned and physically ready for a Test match.”

Nienaber also pointed out that Wales will have a similar problem, but instead of it being in a handful of key positions, it will be squad wide. The Welsh started preparations for this tour also in late May after all their teams were knocked out of the United Rugby Championship at the end of the regular season.

Said Nienaber: “The same will equate to Wales. They haven’t been exposed (to a rugby match).”

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“Luckily, we have had some guys exposed to the URC final just two weeks ago; Handre (Pollard) to a final Friday night (in the Top 14 between Castres and Montpellier). We tried to pick the balance where there are some players who haven’t been exposed to rugby for a long time in training sessions but also players who have had exposure to club rugby recently, so we try to get the balance of that.”

The match on Saturday kicks off at 5pm. Wales will announce their team on Thursday.

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@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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