Wales head coach Wayne Pivac remained diplomatic about South Africa’s decision to make 14 changes, leaving the Springboks to ignite the fire ahead of Saturday’s second Test.
After a quiet build-up to the first of three matches in the Rainbow Nation, the series burst into life with a dramatic opener in Pretoria.
Jacques Ninaber’s world champions won him at the death but only kept Eben Etzebet from the side for the return leg in Bloemfontein this weekend.
Wales coach Wayne Pivac rejects criticism over 14 changes to South Africa squad for second Test
SECOND TEST COMMAND
South Africa: gelants; Arendse, Krill, Esterhuizen, Fassi; Pollard (Captain), Hendricks; T Du Toit, Dweba, Nyakane, Etzebet, Ori, Coetzee, PS Du Toit, Rus
Replacements: Marx, Mchunu, Koch, Nortier, Elstadt, Fourie, Williams, Willems
Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Cuthbert; Biggar (capt), Hardy; Thomas, Elias, Lewis, Rowlands, Beard, Lydiate, Refel, Faletau
Replacements: Lake, W Jones, Wainwright, AA Jones, Navidi, T Williams, Anscombe, Adams
Reset: 16.05 (Saturday)
Judge: Angus Gardner (Australia)
South Africa prop Trevor Nyakan added more spice to the game at the Free Stade.
“We want to hurt them, we want to bring our physicality to them,” Nyakane said. “The only way we know how to do that is to be silent bullies. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.
“We will do what we do best.”
South Africa in the second Test is still difficult. But Ninaber’s massive rotation and the selection of six shirtless players gave Wales a whiff of opportunity.
This week, Wales and British and Irish Lions legend Sir Gareth Edwards said the changes in South Africa were disrespectful to Pivac’s men and devalued the series.
“It doesn’t change our training at all,” Pivac said, refuting the claim. “We are waiting for the same thing. They are a very experienced team no matter what combinations they field.
“This side should be respected and not taken lightly. From our point of view, this is a big focus on how we can improve compared to the last test.
“We are at the end of our season and they (South Africa) are at the beginning of theirs. They will have their own reasoning. Their lineup has depth and quality.
Wales and British and Irish Lions legend Sir Gareth Edwards said South Africa were disrespectful
“We certainly do not take them lightly. What’s important to us is what we can control, and that’s our performance.”
The fact remains that no Welsh team has ever won on South African soil.
Pivac’s men came so close to their first win last weekend and their coaching staff are calling for the same again, albeit with what they hope will be a different result.
Wing Alex Cuthbert is the only change to their starting XV. Josh Adams drops to the bench where he is joined by uncapped props Sam Wainwright and Vin Jones.
In the first test, Wales led 18-3 at half-time, which lived up to expectations, but in the second period they were not on the side of referee Nicky Amashukeli, who sent Alun Wyn Jones, double goalscorer Louis Rhys-Zammit and Rhys Carre to the sin bin and South Africa were awarded a penalty.
Rees-Zammit was shown a yellow card for failing to release South African Willie le Roux in a tackle, but replays clearly showed Wales should have been awarded the penalty.
Pivak said he has spoken to World Rugby chiefs to discuss the key points and hopes the feedback will help his team in the second Test.
The first match was attended by Joel Jutge, Head Rugby Referee.
Wales will be looking to bounce back from their 32-29 death defeat to South Africa in the first Test
“When you look at the game, you can say that one of the highlights of the match was a great tackle by Louis, followed by a clear release and work on the ball,” Pivac said.
“They scored a try and we lost another player. I think it was the worst play of the match. Obviously, from our perspective, we thought it was a great performance.
“It was a big moment in the game for us and very disappointing. We know that there are moments in the game that we need to improve in terms of our discipline, but we also felt that there are some things that are not right for us. We put it behind us and learned from it.”
South Africa’s squad for this weekend is led by World Cup winner Handre Pollard, with Nyakane, Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit in a typically formidable group.
There are doubts about his individual quality, but Wales will be hoping they can fight for collective cohesion as the Springboks did in the first Test before escaping prison through Damian Willems’ late penalty. “We’ve put the disappointment of last week behind us and we’re excited to go again,” Pivac said.
An intriguing second test is ahead.
“It will be 15 rugby players in green shirts. We expect more of the same. They are a very experienced team no matter what combinations they field.
“This side should be respected and not taken lightly.”
Unsurprisingly, Pivak believed in all but one of the same team that came so close to a first win for the Welsh on South African soil last weekend to play this game.
George North, who will start again at center alongside Nick Tompkins, equals Stephen Jones’ record as the most capped Welsh full-back with 104.
Only Alan Wyn Jones (151) – named as a replacement for this weekend’s second Test – and current defense coach Gethin Jenkins (129) have more Wales caps.
Pivac said: “Alex has been training really well. He’s six foot four, good in the air and runs all day. I think there will be a lot of dogfights.