South Africa v Wales: Springboks aim to bury tourists’ hopes in Bloemfontein ‘graveyard’
|Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein Date: Saturday, 9 July Kick-off:16:05 BST|
|Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio Wales Extra – available via BBC Sounds, 882 MW and BBC Sport Online, Radio Cymru plus live text and match report on the BBC Sport website|
Bloemfontein has been nicknamed “the graveyard” for opposition sides by Springboks players.
Now stand-in captain Handre Pollard says the plan is for South Africa to try and bury Wales’ series hopes at the Toyota stadium.
After Springboks’ last-gasp 32-29 win in Pretoria last week, a second victory would clinch the series at a venue South Africans believe intimidates opposition teams.
“It’s such a tough place and the people are passionate,” said Pollard.
“When the Springboks come here, it’s a different feeling and the people are so hungry for rugby and supporters want to get us in town.
“It’s an unbelievably special atmosphere, we are going to tap into that and try and channel that emotion in the right direction.
“Bloemfontein is a special place, we want to keep it that way and make it a tough place for others to come here.”
Pollard is one of 14 starting changes from last week’s side and is standing in for regular skipper Siya Kolisi, who admitted Wales got under South Africa’s skin last weekend in Pretoria.
“We have enough experience on the pitch to handle whatever comes our way,” added Pollard.
“We know Wales are going to try and get in our faces and under our skin. They have been pretty open about it and it was clear in the first Test match.
“That’s something we enjoy. We are all for that, if they come at us, we won’t take a step back.
“I understand why they are trying to do it. If Wales just going to come here and quietly go about their business and let us have our way, it is not going to go their way.
“They will trying to get under our skins and knock us off our task, but we are South Africans and we enjoy that.
“It brings the best out of us, having our backs against the wall.
“We will be up for it and there is no way we are going to take a step back.”
Wales captain Dan Biggar will be Pollard’s opposite number on Saturday and has been at the heart of the tourists’ efforts.
“Biggs is a great player with a lot of experience and he is a fighter,” added Pollard.
“He is one of the toughest fly-halves out there and you could see that last week in the way he led his team.
“He won’t go away and is an inspirational guy for them. The way he plays and motivates his side is important for Wales.
“So it’s up to us to get after him and get stuck into him as much as we can. So we can try and be physical and dominate them, and him.”
South Africa’s selection policy has proved controversial although Wales captain Wayne Pivac and Biggar have not questioned the sweeping changes.
In contrast, Wales and British and Irish legend Sir Gareth Edwards described them as disrespectful and devaluing the series, but Pollard disagrees.
“I shrug it off because these guys are wrong,” added Pollard.
“We have got a few new faces in the squad, but it’s guys who have earned their spots playing brilliantly for their clubs this season.”
Head coach Jacques Nienaber was asked earlier in the week in a South Africa press conference whether he would be upset if his selection was called a B team.
Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick has dismissed people criticising South Africa.
“In all honesty, calling this team a B team is disrespecting the Springboks emblem,” added Stick.
“They talk about our team as if it’s a ‘B team’. We don’t have a B team.
“Some of those players played in the URC final and semi-finals. I don’t want to go to the Welsh side and say they have no teams in the play-offs and they can judge and say these guys are a B team.
“These are proper players that have earned their stripes and deserve their opportunity.
“If they want to say it’s a ‘B team’ they must come to speak with us after the game and the result will speak to that.
“If you have 42 players in our squad then they have all earned their stripes playing well for their clubs.
“Somewhere as coaches we have to give them opportunities and now we are in a good position.
“Our first goal is always to win and we are going to do everything in our power after the 80th minute to make sure that we are the team that win (on Saturday).
“When you are wearing a Springbok jersey you are not only representing yourself and your family, you are representing 58m South Africans.”