South Africa vs Wales: Wayne Pivac’s side is ready with the Springboks

Siya Kolisi lifts the trophy
Siyakolisi, South Africa captain, and his team-mates celebrate their series win against the British Lions in 2021

Siyakolisi’s 2019 World Cup victory marked the end of a 518-day journey.

Rassie Erasmus, then the head coach, was taking charge for his first match. He handed out 13 new caps during a June 2018 encounter in Washington DC with Wales.

They will now meet again with the same amount of time before the 2023 World Cup final in Paris.

However, Wales is looking to resurrect their side unlike four years ago. The Springboks are focused on developing their game and adding depth.

BBC Sport Wales takes control of the formidable squad Wayne Pivac’s team will face this summer as Wales fly to South Africa on June 23rd.

Ryan Elias scores try
Ryan Elias was able to score a late winning try in Wales for 2018 and won his third international cap

Waiting game

Jacques Nienaber was appointed South Africa’s head coach in January 2020. He could not have guessed that his first Test would be delayed another 18 months.

There were limited opportunities for selection. His initial selections were to defeat the British Lions. This task was accomplished with the 2-1 series win in summer 2021.

The 43-man squad, named for this series, includes a mix of senior players and returning players after years away from the Test environment. There are also potential debutants.

The form has paid off with 17 players who have had to deal with the pressure of playing in a final this season.

One of those deciders, however, was the first United Rugby Championship final (URC), played in Cape Town between the Stormers and Bulls The hosts won the contest.

Stormers celebrate with the URC trophy
Stormers never won Super Rugby, but they have silverware from their maiden league campaign.

Although the prospect of an expanding league was initially sold to the public as a way to see world champions compete against European countries, it became a better vehicle to highlight South Africa’s rising talent.

This will only grow with their inclusion into the European competition next year.

New faces

In that closely contested URC final, five of the eight uncapped Nienaber players were involved.

Deon Fourie was one of them. He finished the game with a medal around his neck, and the highest number turnovers for the season. At 35, he could be the oldest Springboks rookie.

His younger Stormers teammate, Evan Roos (the dynamic and destructive number eight) won the URC Awards at the end of the season. This included the player of the Year award.

Others have also impressed. Jake White, his World Cup-winning coach, compared Kurt-Lee Arendse to Jason Robinson. Full back Kurt-Lee Arendse topped clean breaks charts and he is rightfully inspired by the fact that Makazole Makimpi and Cheslin Kolbe made their debuts one year after a World Cup.

You shouldn’t expect too much from the new players at this stage of the year.

Nienaber will work to balance the need for more squad depth and achieving results, while building momentum.

Nienaber stated, “When you represent Boks you represent your country and a brand that has existed for over 100 years.”

“This is not the platform to grow.” If we have a few good results, we might be able give more players Test rugby exposure.

Magic eight question

Leicester Tigers' Jasper Wiese tries to break out of a tackle
Jasper Wiese was signed by Leicester Tigers for the Pro14 side Cheetahs during the summer of 2020

All indications point to an experienced team being named for Test One, even though Duane vermeulen has been ruled-out due to a knee injury.

So who will be filling the number eight berth. Elrigh Louw has been Elrigh’s closest rival in the final of the URC. Roos was the URC’s most outstanding candidate.

However, a week later, in the thrilling Premiership final at Twickenham Leicester’s Jasper Wiese won the man-ofthe-match award.

Although he arrived in camp only five days before the first Test, his 11 caps could make him the favorite to wear the eighth shirt.

Marcell Coetzee, Bulls’ back row, could fill this void. This man was crucial in stopping Leinster from winning a fifth consecutive URC championship, which is no small feat considering their squad included 19 Irish nationals.

Coetzee will be joining Warrick Gelant’s Quins and Andre Esterhuizen’s Warrick Gelant. The returning trio was last seen in green and gold in 2019.

Number 10 dilemma

If Handre Pollard and Montpellier take the field in the Top 14 showpiece, the total number of finalist this season will be 18.

Pollard is among only two fly-halves in the squad, which includes one of three players who have started under Nienaber since 2018, and one of three rugby Rassie Erasmus directors.

Elton Janjties is the other, while Morne Stewart was 37 when he retired from international Rugby after winning the penalty.

Johan Goosen (whose last Test appearance was against Wales in 2016) has been in the preparation camp. It is possible that he will provide cover at 10 when he comes back.

Pollard’s fitness might be the most important thing in the current.

Recent records

Nienaber is proud that 10 of the 15 Tests between South Africa and Wales have been decided by five or fewer points since November 2008.

He stated, “If we look at our history in Wales and the facts then in mine at least, I think it’ll be a tightly contested Series.”

Nienaber also believes that his opponent could be in the same situation as his team four years ago.

He said, “I expect a desperate Welsh team, and not because they are where they are.”

“I cannot speak for them, but I can tell you that we were desperate when we returned in 2018 as Springboks.

“I know how that feels and that is what we will likely face.”

Respectful words. South Africa has never lost at home to Wales.

Pivac’s decision not to call this series the “ultimate Challenge” is understandable, considering that the first two Tests were played at high altitude and home fans back in attendance.

It might even be an exaggeration.

Leave a Comment