South Africa v Wales: Lock Adam Beard hopes to create history against Springboks
|Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria Date: Saturday, 2 July. Kick-off: 16:05 BST Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, plus live text on the BBC Sport website|
Lock Adam Beard believes Wales can capitalise on being written off in the three-Test tour of South Africa.
Wayne Pivac’s side fly out this week to face world champions South Africa, with the opening Test set for 2 July in Pretoria.
Wales will arrive in South Africa having finished fifth in the 2022 Six Nations and having lost the final game at home against Italy.
“I think we work best when we are actually underdogs,” said Beard.
“Going into this tour, nobody has given us any sort of chance to go out there and get a victory against South Africa. As a Welsh nation, we thrive under those circumstances.”
Wales have lost all 10 previous internationals against the Springboks on South African soil, which underlines how big a task lies ahead.
And they can reflect on just four wins – victories over Canada, Fiji, Australia and Scotland – in the last 12 months.
“No Wales team has gone out to South Africa and won (an international against South Africa),” added Beard.
“It will be a great challenge to go out there and create some history of our own.
“We were three points away from beating South Africa and being in a World Cup final three years ago and last autumn we were unlucky not to get a victory.
“There is no better opportunity now to dust off what has happened, get on this tour and prove a point to everyone who is doubting us.”
Beard, 26, has described his second-row colleague Alun Wyn Jones as “the ultimate professional” ahead of the tour.
Jones has made a world record 162 Test match appearances for Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
A shoulder injury and two operations hampered him this season, though, and he has only featured once for Wales since late October.
He won his 150th Wales cap in a shock Six Nations home defeat against Italy three months ago, being selected ahead of an in-form Will Rowlands.
Jones, who will be 37 in September, made his Test debut 16 years ago and was skipper before injury struck, heads to South Africa on Thursday as part of a Wales squad captained by Dan Biggar.
“Al is the ultimate professional and he is looking very good,” Beard said. “He is always the one setting standards, pushing the boys along.
“You can see the enthusiasm and everything he has around the squad. He is the the one driving it, always chatting, and he is enjoying his rugby.
“He might prefer to be captain, he might not, I am not too sure. It might take a little bit of pressure off him not being the captain, but you just know the leadership roles he has anyway.
“He might not have the captain’s armband, but he is still the one leading the enthusiasm, squad ethics and stuff like that.”
Beard and Jones will have to be part of a South Africa pack that is battle-hardened and used to dominating opposition sides physically.
“They are big men who are very direct and they come hard at you,” added Beard.
“We know our set-piece has got to be on point and definitely the physicality point of the game. We have got to take it head-on to them.
“Last week, we had a bit of a hit-out with a referee coming in. We had two teams of 15 pretty much going at it live in all our different game scenarios.
“We haven’t played for a couple of weeks, so it’s important that we’ve had those training sessions where it needs to get a bit tasty, a bit lively, so when we got out to South Africa we are ready for that confrontation.”