VIDEO: Wales not buying into 'Bok B-team' hype
Wales coach Wayne Pivac and captain Dan Biggar attempted to pour cold water on the fall-out in their country from the South African team selection for the second Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
They dismissed the suggestion that the selection is either “disrespectful” or “weakens” the side for Saturday’s crunch match.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made 14 changes from the line-up that edged past Wales 32-29 in a thrilling series opener last week. [to read team announcement, CLICK HERE]
The selection raised the ire of Wales great Gareth Edwards, amongst others, who also feels the Bloemfontein Test has been devalued. (To read his view, CLICK HERE]
“The big disappointment for me was to learn South Africa are going to change virtually their whole team,” Edwards said.
“They have got every right to prepare for the World Cup, but I would really like to know what their logic is in changing so many.
“I suppose the only way they can justify it is if they win. I think it shows a little bit of disrespect.”
However, the Welsh camp doesn’t agree with the sentiments of their compatriots.
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Pivac said the changes are not going to change their approach.
He still sees Wales facing 15 very formidable players in green jerseys.
Pivac said their focus was NOT on the team selected by the Springboks, but rather on how they can improve their own game -0 based on what they produced in last week’s 29-32 loss to the Boks in Pretoria.
“They will have their reasoning,” he said of the wholesale changes made by Nienaber.
“They have depth and quality throughout their squad, to go with experience in this team.
“We are certainly not taking them lightly at all.
“There are players who have an opportunity to impress. We know they will come out strongly and represent their country like any person wearing that [Springbok] jersey.
“For us, it is about what we can control and that is our performance.”
He said they also had ‘additional time’ to prepare for the challenges presented by the team named for the second Test.
“You just have to look at the experience in the backline – with Jesse Kriel and [Andre] Esterhuizen. They are very good and very experienced players.
“The world-class No.10 [Handre Pollard as captain] drops back in there.
“We expect them to settle pretty early in this game and for this to be another arm-wrestle. Hopefully, we can front up and do our part.”
Pivac added that they have not focused much on the Bok selections, but rather on their own performance.
“We can’t really gauge the South African team, because the team that we are playing isn’t the XV we faced last week.
“For us, it is about getting our own house in order and ensuring we start as well as we did last week.”
The Welsh captain, Biggar, described the team for the second Test as the ‘form’ players in South Africa.
“The side we played last week was renowned, experienced World Cup winners and the rest of that,” Bigger told a media scrum from the Welsh training base in Johannesburg.,
“[In] this team you have Pollard at No.10, who will [provide the] glue [for] the team.
“They have some really exciting form players in that team when you look at the names.
“When I saw that they made 14 changes, I was thinking: ‘Who will they bring in?’
“Then you look at the team sheet, I don’t expect this to be anything other than an incredibly tough game on Saturday.
“We [Wales] make changes every autumn – be that Georgia, Fiji or whomever,” he said of the year’s Tests against Souther Hemisphere teams touring north.
“There is nothing in it for me. South Africa can select who they want.
“They will be very strong, whoever they put out.”
Biggar also touched on facing World Cup-winning flyhalf Pollard, who will captain the Boks on Saturday and is an extremely experienced player.
“He settles the team down really well and gives them a focal point.
“There is a noticeable difference when he doesn’t play.
“You have to be very good against him and keep your error rate down.”
He suggested the team for Saturday is a side that will be more ‘match sharp’, as most of them have played plenty of rugby in recent weeks.
“No.12 [Esterhuizen] has been the form player in the Premiership.
“It is not as if they have swapped a World Cup winner and a brilliant player in [Damian] de Allende out for Esterhuizen. It certainly doesn’t weaken them.
“There are lots of changes to the team, but I honestly don’t believe that many of the changes weaken their side.
“We are almost more wary, because we are not quite sure what. As much as we know what you are dealing with in De Allende, [Makazole] Mapimpi, [Cheslin] Kolbe and things like that.
“We know more about those players. We are probably a little bit more cautious this week.”