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Springboks' Welsh discovery after 'a proper Six Nations analysis'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Jacques Nienaber has insisted he hasn’t bought into the doom and gloom currently surrounding the soon-to-tour Wales team, the Springboks boss instead outlining the dangers that Wayne Pivac’s squad pose to his South Africa side. The 2021 Guinness Six Nations champions came a cropper in the recent championship, winning just one match to finish fifth and becoming the butt of numerous jokes when beaten in Cardiff by Italy.

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That was the first win for the Italians in the tournament since 2015 and it massively dented the reputation of the Welsh under Pivac. However, Springboks coach Nienaber has formed a very different view having reviewed the entire five-match championship played by Wales and he is taking nothing for granted ahead of the three-Test series that begins in Pretoria on July 2.

Taking some time from the training week in Pretoria to host an online midweek media briefing, Nienaber unloaded his thoughts about written-off Wales and specified exactly why he doesn’t share the pessimism that had surrounded Pivac and co since March.

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Marcell Coetzee previews Bulls v Leinster URC semifinal
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Marcell Coetzee previews Bulls v Leinster URC semifinal

“If you look at our history with Wales, in my mind I believe it is going to be a tightly contested series. Last year, the end of year tour was the first time we actually pulled off a victory in Wales since 2013. I’m not sure about the dates but it was quite some time. It was something like eight years.

“And then if you look at our last couple of outings since I have been with the Boks since 2018, we lost in Washington, we lost on the end of year tour, then we got a victory in the World Cup semi-final and it was a penalty, that was the difference. If you look at the last game last year, we only got scoreboard pressure on Wales, not even pressure we just got control of the scoreboard on 72 or 73 minutes.

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“So Wales will be a tough one, especially for us. They know how we play and we have got a pretty good idea of how they play and it is always an arm wrestle. The interesting thing for me on Wales when I did a proper analysis of them from the Six Nations, everyone will remember the loss to Italy but the French, who actually won a Grand Slam, scored three points in the last 70 minutes of that Test match.

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“They were 10-3 or 10-0 up after ten minutes and they won it 13-9 so that gives you the quality of Wales, that they can push that French side. And the same for England, when Wales played them at Twickenham they were 17-0 down with 20, 30 minutes to go and England won that game by just five points, 24-19 or something like that. I’m under no illusion that it is going to be a proper series.”

Nienaber currently has 17 players with him at the Springboks preliminary preparation camp, players whose club seasons are already over, and with Wales having no representatives in the final eight of the URC season, he is expecting them to be very well prepared by the time they fly into South Africa for the Test series.

“What I can tell you about Wales is they always bring a physical edge, their set-pieces are always well-coached and also the defence off set-pieces are well-coached and then they are tactically smart. When they last played us they had a good kicking game, they pinned us down in our half so there are certain things that you have to focus on and it is always a scrappy affair against the Welsh, it is always an arm wrestle.

“Since I came back in 2018, we got well beaten on the end of year tour where there was a ten-point margin between the two sides but all the other games, it’s two points, three points. That is what they will bring, they will bring physicality, they will bring pride, they are willing to take it to the gutters if they have to, they can open it up if they want to, so that is the intensity they will bring and they will bring a well-coached side that will have four weeks preparation time with their coaches.

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“They will be well prepared and they will have made their plans for us with their club sides not making the playoffs of the URC. They are already in camp and preparing for us so they will be well prepared.”

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