‘This is the start of our World Cup,’ says Jean Kleyn about Springboks’ Wales clash

FILE - Springbok lock Jean Kleyn warms up prior to a Rugby Championship match. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

FILE - Springbok lock Jean Kleyn warms up prior to a Rugby Championship match. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Aug 14, 2023


South Africa’s warm-up fixture against Wales on Saturday should be given the same reverence as any match at the Rugby World Cup and the Springboks will risk injury to go for the win, lock Jean Kleyn said.

France have lost Romain Ntamack for the World Cup after the flyhalf sustained a knee injury against Scotland on Saturday, while England will be without scrumhalf Jack van Poortvliet.

England are also likely to have to make do without captain Owen Farrell for their first few fixtures at the World Cup, which starts in France on September 8, as he is likely to be banned for a number of matches after being sent off against Wales.

However, Kleyn said any thought of holding back has not entered the minds of the Boks.

"Everything is at stake, we can’t look at any game over the next 10 or 11 weeks as just another match," Kleyn told reporters on Monday. "Every weekend is the next biggest match of your life, that is how it is regarded by the players.

"We don’t have a lackadaisical outlook to say, ‘this is just another warm-up game before the real competition starts’. This is the start of our World Cup."

There have been major changes in the Wales team over the last few months and Kleyn believes they are a different proposition than the side which struggled in 2022.

"We won’t change our game-plan for them, we will look to impose ourselves as a pack and let’s see how they handle that," he said.

A few months ago, Kleyn had written off his own chances of furthering his test career but is now a potentially vital piece of the puzzle for the Boks.

He played five tests for adopted nation Ireland in 2019, including at the previous World Cup in Japan.

A World Rugby rule change in 2021 that allows test-capped players to represent a second national team if they are eligible after a period of three years of inactivity with their original country left the door open for his original dream – wearing the darker green of the Boks.

"I was having a conversation with a mate of mine four months ago and saying I had my chance at international rugby and that was probably the end of it now," Kleyn said.

"The call (from South Africa) was completely out of the blue. I had no prospects in my mind of playing for the Springboks. But when an opportunity like this comes along you can’t pass it off."