Durban — Wales will be honouring their great legend of the game, Phil Bennett, in Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld and will be supercharged to deliver a performance worthy of the great British and Irish Lions flyhalf.
Fittingly, it was at Loftus in 1974 that Bennett delivered one of his finest performances when he steered the Lions to a massive 28-9 victory over the Boks that secured the tourists a famous series win.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac confirmed that his team will wear black armbands in honour of Bennett, who died three weeks ago.
“Phil is a proper legend and is respected worldwide,” Pivac said. “It has been a sad time for his family and all Welsh fans and we will be doing our best to put on a great performance in memory of Phil. He was such a star of the 1974 tour to South Africa... There will be a lot of emotional things buzzing around us come kick-off and it is vital that we get focused early on and start really well.”
And Pivac believes his team has a great opportunity to knock over the Boks because they will be rusty in their first outing since November last year and they have not had a great deal of time to prepare.
“One hundred percent we have a golden chance to beat them,” the New Zealander said. “Our focus is on the first Test for a number of reasons. We can’t get ahead of ourselves, we have job to do over the 80 minutes but you are dead right that this is a very good opportunity for us.
“We have not had a lot of rugby of late with our guys our guys not having been involved in the URC playoffs, but the South African squad has had to come together from an array of countries, so I reckon it is a level playing field for us in terms of coming together as squads and I am excited about the fact that this makes it equal for both teams.”
Pivac was asked if it made any difference to the Welsh that Elton Jatnties will be starting at flyhalf and not Handre Pollard, who plays a little differently to Jantjies in terms of kicking style.
“At the end of the day we have prepared for what we think is coming but we have to adapt if necessary and perhaps we will have a conversation on the park after ten minutes when we see how they play with the personnel they have got,” Pivac said. “But we have to be ready for anything and the reality is that no matter what that they present to us, we have to be on our game defensively, our discipline has to be excellent and we have to be very, very physical.
“Everybody knows what is coming...We are playing the World Champions in their backyard and at altitude but we are relishing the opportunity and the occasion.”
Springboks – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Substitutes – 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.
Wales – 15 Liam William 14 Louis Rees-Zammit 13 George North 12 Nick Tompkins 11 Josh Adams 10 Dan Biggar (capt) 9 Kieran Hardy 8 Taulupe Faletau 7 Tommy Reffell 6 Dan Lydiate 5 Will Rowlands 4 Adam Beard 3 Dillon Lewis 2 Ryan Elias 1 Gareth Thomas.
Substitutes – Dewi Lake, Rhys Carre, Tomas Francis, Alun Wyn Jones, Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Gareth Anscombe, Owen Watkin.