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Springboks' forward wary of Lions sub-plot in Cardiff

By Jan De Koning
(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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The Springboks are well aware of a potential backlash from Wales, when they open their year-end tour in Cardiff next week. The Welsh squad have 10 members of the British and Irish Lions team that lost to South Africa in the three-match Test series in July and August.

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And the Boks expect a ‘sting’ in the tail of a powerful Welsh Dragons team.

The year-end tour comes after a disappointing Rugby Championship campaign that saw the Boks lose back-to-back Tests against Australia, before finishing with a loss and a win against New Zealand – reclaiming their world No.1 ranking.

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Now, after almost 18 months of non-stop rugby, the South African-based contingent of the Springboks squad had a well-deserved three-week break after the Rugby Championship – which ended on October 2.

The Boks face three “world-class” opponents – Wales in Cardiff (November 6), Scotland in Edinburgh (November 13) and England in London (November 20) on the tour.

Springbok hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi, speaking from the team’s training base in Paris, said the ‘spirit’ in the Bok camp after the mid-season break is high.

“We have three weeks at home, with family, to rejuvenate ourselves,” he said of a four-month period of bio-bubbles – which included the B&I Lions series and the Rugby Championship.

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The seasoned hooker said they are feeling “fresh”, with the European-based members of the Bok squad only scheduled to join them on Sunday.

He said their focus is currently on the Welsh team – which features B&I Lions squad members like captain Alun Wyn Jones, Adam Beard, Taulupe Faletau, Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Louis Rees-Zammit and Liam Williams.

Mbonambi said they will “keep a close eye” on the Wales versus All Black game this coming Saturday, affording them another great opportunity to analyse the opposition for their opening tour match.

Wales host New Zealand in a match that is outside the international window, but a game that will show just how much reigning Six Nations champions Wales have evolved under the mentorship of Wayne Pivac.

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Springboks hooker Bongi Mbonambi charges at All Blacks halfback Brad Weber. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Another aspect of the game the Boks are well aware of is that a substantial number of Welsh players will be still “hurting” over South Africa’s two-one series win over the British and Irish Lions series.

“We looked at their team and saw how many B&I Lions players are in their squad,” the 30-year-old hooker said. “We definitely expect a massive sting from them.

“They will bring the heat, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

Mbonambi, 30, played the first of his 45 Tests against Ireland in Port Elizabeth on 25 June 2016.

He was a starting member of the Bok team that beat the All Blacks on the Gold Coast earlier this month to reclaim the No.1 ranking – which New Zealand held for a week.

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