Dan Biggar urges Wales to focus as South Africa ring the changes

Dan Biggar insists Wales must be ‘MORE wary’ of South Africa’s threat despite the Springboks making 14 changes for the second test… as Wayne Pivac’s side look to level the three-match series in Bloemfontein

  • South Africa recorded a narrow 32-29 victory in the first test against Wales
  • The Springboks have made 14 changes for the second test of the series
  • South Africa still have a strong starting line-up due to their strength in depth 
  • Wales captain Dan Biggar feels Wales must not take their eye off the ball
  • He thinks his team must be ‘more wary’ of the threat that South Africa will pose

The time for talking is over.

Disrespect, pain, bullies; all words which have been thrown around in the build-up to Saturday’s crunch second Test between South Africa and Wales in Bloemfontein.

It promises to be a momentous and intriguing encounter.

Wayne Pivac’s side are gearing themselves up for a must-win game against South Africa

South Africa: Gelant; Arendse, Kriel, Esterhuizen, Fassi; Pollard (capt), Hendrikse; T Du Toit, Dweba, Nyakane, Etzebeth, Orie, Coetzee, PS Du Toit, Roos

Replacements: Marx, Mchunu, Koch, Nortje, Elstadt, Fourie, Williams, Willemse

Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Cuthbert; Biggar (capt), Hardy; Thomas, Elias, Lewis, Rowlands, Beard, Lydiate, Reffell, Faletau

Replacements: Lake, W Jones, Wainwright, AW Jones, Navidi, T Williams, Anscombe, Adams

Kick-off: 4.05pm (Saturday)

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

Wayne Pivac’s Wales have not engaged in the pre-match bluster, instead leaving it to the opposition and legends from yesteryear to add the spice.

Wales and British & Irish Lions great Sir Gareth Edwards suggested this week that the decision by Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber to make 14 changes disrespected Pivac’s men and devalued the Test series. That claim has been refuted by both South Africa and Wales.

But it didn’t stop Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane saying his team plan to ‘inflict pain’ and be ‘silent bullies’ at Free State Stadium.

Wales don’t have any intention of dying wondering either.  

They came so close to a first win on Springbok soil in the first of the three-match series in Pretoria, only to lose 32-29 at the death as poor discipline cost them.

‘We had a real edge to us and we make no apologies for that,’ said Wales captain Dan Biggar.

‘We tried to get amongst South Africa, get under their skin a little bit, and turn it into a bit of a scrap.

‘We are well aware if you just gift them everything, roll over and be whiter than white, then you are going to come off second best quite comfortably. I thought it was a good approach by us.

‘It was a really positive start for us to build on.

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made wholesale changes for the second test

Trevor Nyakane wants South Africa to bully Wales in the second test in Bloemfontein

South Africa narrowly beat Wales in the opening test thanks to a last-minute penalty

Despite this, Wales captain Dan Biggar feels Wales have plenty to build on from the first test

‘We put on a really good show last week. In my opinion we are going to have to improve 10 to 15 per cent to get anything out of Saturday.’

South Africa’s total rotation from the first Test for the second – bar lock Eben Etzebeth – has been the theme of the week, but Wales must not allow themselves to get distracted by talk of facing a second-string Springbok side. Nienaber’s team for the second Test is still hugely impressive.

What other nation could replace a World Cup-winning centre in Damian de Allende with the best player in the Gallagher Premiership? Andre Esterhuizen of Harlequins is no reserve.

Andre Esterhuizen is set to start on Saturday after thriving at Harlequins last season

‘I really believe the team we are playing on Saturday is probably a little bit more match-sharp because they have been playing a little bit more,’ Biggar said.

‘There are lots of changes, but I honestly don’t believe that many of the changes weaken their side.

‘From our point of view, we are almost more wary. When I saw they had made 14 changes, I was thinking who they were going to bring in.

‘But then you look at the team-sheet and I don’t expect this to be anything other than an incredibly tough game. We make changes every autumn, don’t we? There is nothing in it for me.

‘South Africa can pick who they want and they are going to be very strong.’

Siya Kolisi, Cheslin Kolbe, De Allende and Faf de Klerk are among the first-choice South African stars left out this weekend as Nienaber looks to expose his next generation ahead of the World Cup.

Cheslin Kolbe is set to be rested on Saturday as South Africa rotate their squad

South Africa can still turn to World Cup-winning fly half Handre Pollard, though

World champions Etzebeth, captain Handre Pollard and Pieter-Steph du Toit do start, but there are six uncapped players in the 23.

Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and No 8 Evan Roos are Test rookies, but have impressed in the United Rugby Championship.

Biggar’s fly-half battle with Pollard will be pivotal. If Wales can reproduce the display delivered in the first Test, again front up physically and improve their discipline, they will be in the hunt.

They will also hope that for all the individual quality in the much-changed South Africa side, the Springboks will struggle with collective cohesion.

That is entirely possible.

Wales have kept the faith, swapping Alex Cuthbert for Josh Adams on the wing and making a couple of changes on the bench where uncapped prop Sam Wainwright could face a baptism of fire.

Pivac’s scrum needs to perform.

Alex Cuthbert will be given the chance to build on his impressive Six Nations campaign

South Africa will potentially have more of a kicking game with Pollard and Esterhuizen as their 10-12 axis, particularly with the game at altitude. Esterhuizen’s monster left boot will be a dangerous weapon. Still, Wales have plenty in their favour and real belief too.

That was not expected before the first Test given their last game was a loss to Italy.

Wales have already proved some doubters wrong, but a win in South Africa would represent a big statement and a sign of significant progress under Pivac who has had his doubters.

‘If we can play in the right areas and look to put South Africa under pressure, there will be opportunities and there will be cracks in their defence for us to exploit,’ Biggar said.

He will be the man leading the Welsh charge once again.

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