Wales

Welsh to lean on Lions legacy

Fri, 08 Nov 2013 10:16
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There's no bigger hurdle than playing a Southern Hemisphere team
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Wales are depending on the spirit that saw the British and Irish Lions record a series win over Australia in mid-year for their opening year-end Test against South Africa on Saturday.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has named 11 players who featured under him for the Lions in their 2-1 win over the Wallabies to take on the might of a vastly experienced, hulking Springbok team.

Saturday's match at the Millennium Stadium will be the first time the two countries have met since the Springboks edged a 2011 World Cup pool game in Wellington, 17-16.

Wales, however, went on to reach the semifinals in New Zealand, with Gatland also overseeing three Six Nations titles and two Grand Slams since taking charge of the Principality's side in 2008.

But Wales's record in that same period against the Southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia has been dire, with just one win - against Australia in 2008 - compared to 20 defeats.

And Wales have racked up just one victory over South Africa - in 1999, in 26 internationals stretching back 107 years.

"There's no bigger hurdle when you're involved with any team and you're playing against the Southern Hemisphere and actually winning," said Wales assistant coach Rob Howley.

"The confidence and self-belief that they had after the [B&I] Lions tour was huge. You can see a difference in their mindset. This week, the emotion from the players, in particularly the Lions players, has been different.

"There's been a very positive mindset from the fact they've had a wonderful experience in mid-year and obviously they need to bring that in the national jersey on Saturday."

Returning flank Dan Lydiate agreed, saying of previous results that have gone the way of either South Africa, Australia or New Zealand: "We've always come so close, it's that last step.

"The [Lions] win in mid-year can only help us and boost us going into these year-end internationals.

"You take confidence in being involved in such a squad."

Ospreys wing Eli Walker was a late withdrawal for Wales after pulling out with a hamstring injury, his place taken by Scarlets fullback Liam Williams.

South Africa have arrived in Europe on the back of finishing highly creditable second behind world champions New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship and are sure to provide tough opposition.

Prop Frans Malherbe will make his debut for the 'Boks, while other injuries have forced coach Heyneke Meyer into picking an experienced backline.

The 22-year-old Frans Malherbe comes in for the injured Jannie du Plessis and faces a baptism of fire against a tested Welsh and all-Lions front-row of Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Gethin Jenkins.

The only other change to the pack is at lock, with Flip van der Merwe starting next to Eben Etzebeth in the second row.

Star backs JP Pietersen and Jaque Fourie are also back in the Springbok team for the match at the Millennium Stadium.

It will be Fourie's first Test for South Africa since the World Cup in 2011, while a combination of injury and non-availability means Pietersen is back for his first taste of international rugby yet this season.

"We're very fortunate to have two world-class players in JP and Jaque available for selection and I wanted to get them into the action as soon as possible," said Meyer.

"They bring a vast amount of experience to the team and it was clear from our training sessions thus far that they are in great form and ready for Test rugby."

AFP

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