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'We are all for that, they can come at us!'

PRE-MATCH BUILD-UP: Bring it on, the Springboks are ready for you!

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This, in a nutshell, is the message from new captain Handre Pollard ahead of South Africa’s second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

In a spiteful series opener last week, Damian Willemse sealed a 32-29 squeaker with a last-minute penalty.

Wales have made no secret of the fact that they will use the same abrasive, in-your-face tactics that unsettled the Boks in the early stages of last week’s Loftus Versfeld encounter.

Pollard, who will become the 64th player to lead the national side in Bloemfontein on Saturday, said they expected another epic encounter against the visitors.

He was quick to add, that the Boks would not take a step back.

Pollard will lead a team showing 14 changes following the dramatic success at Loftus Versfeld.

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However, he feels they have enough battle-hardened men to deal with the Welsh tactics.

“We have enough experience on the pitch to handle what comes out way,” Pollard told a media briefing at the team hotel in Bloemfontein.

“We know Wales will get in our faces and try and get under our skin.

“They have been pretty open about it and it was pretty clear in the first Test.”

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Pollard, 28 and capped 60 times, said that ‘getting physical’ is something South African enjoy.

“We are all for that, they can come at us!

“We won’t take a step back.

“In fact, that usually brings the best out of us.”

He said Wales is a tough team.

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“They don’t go away and they are physical, but we are prepared for that.

“They also have a good tactical game, so it’s going to be hard Test rugby, but if there is space out wide we will try to take it.”

Pollard was excited about playing in Bloemfontein and said: “It is a difficult ground to play at.

“I played my second Super Rugby game here and I remember we lost.

“When the Boks come here there is a different feeling to Bloemfontein, so for us it is a special place, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Both Pollard and Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick rubbished suggestions that the Bok team was a ‘B side’.

Pollard was delighted to be handed the captaincy, standing in for regular captain Siya Kolisi.

“It is an honour to captain the Springboks and it is going to be an exciting challenge.

“My family is here, as my parents are coming to the game as well, so it is going to be a special occasion.”

Commenting on the array of changes in the Springbok squad, Pollard said: “There are a lot of new faces in the squad, but every player deserves his spot as they all played for their franchises and clubs, and we’ will have enough experience on the field as a group.

Pollard added: “I think it is important to give the young guys an opportunity to play in such big games because it can only benefit them in future.

“This group of players has trained together for the last two weeks, and we have built cohesion in the squad.”

Stick was equally adamant about the quality of the team they selected: “If you look at our team, we have players like Thomas du Toit [prop], who captained the Sharks, Eben Etzebeth [lock] who has captained the Springboks before, and guys like Handre who have been in the system for a very long time and who know what we want to do on the field.

“The nature of his position also requires him to be one of the game drivers, so the only difference for him this week is that he will have to communicate with the match officials.”

Of the changes to the team, Stick said: “In all honesty, calling this team a B team is disrespecting the emblem. We have 42 players in the squad, and they have all played well for their clubs and, somehow, we have to give them opportunities.

“We do not have a B team, we have a good balance of guys who have been around and others who have been in form, and we feel it is important to get that balance right.”

Pollard said: “We know Wales will get under our skin, but we won’t take a step back. In fact, that usually brings the best out of us.

“Wales are a tough team. They don’t go away, and they are physical, but we are prepared for that.

“They also have a good tactical game, so it’s going to be hard Test rugby, but if there is space out wide we will try to take it.”

Pollard was excited about playing in Bloemfontein and said: “It is a difficult ground to play at.

“I played my second Vodacom Super Rugby game here and I remember we lost.

“When the Boks come here there is a different feeling to Bloemfontein, so for us, it is a special place, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

@rugby365com, with additional reporting by @Springboks

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