Wales head coach Warren Gatland is targeting an historic Test series win in South Africa ahead of Saturday’s opener at King’s Park in Durban.
Wales have never beaten the Springboks on South African soil and Gatland’s men were beaten 2-0 when they last toured in 2008.
Few are giving them a chance during this two-Test series given the likes of Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny, Richard Hibbard, Rhys Priestland, Justin Tipuric and Scott Williams are missing through injury, but Gatland is looking for a confidence building win with the World Cup 15 months away.
The Wales boss, whose side warmed up for Saturday’s Test opener with a comfortable 34-12 victory over Eastern Province Kings in Port Elizabeth, said: “The target is to win. I had only just been in charge when we were here in 2008. We were well beaten in the first Test and came back and were unlucky in the second Test. We were in front and had a couple of rough calls go against us in the second Test.
“We need to start well and get some confidence and hopefully we can win.
“A couple of years ago in Australia we were very unlucky, we were close to South Africa in the autumn and we are not here to make up the numbers.
“We are here to build, get some confidence and hopefully to win the series.”
Gatland has named an experienced line-up for the first Test, resisting the temptation to include a couple of new caps in his starting XV, with Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies and Ospreys’ Bristol-bound fly-half Matthew Morgan only making the bench.
Prop Gethin Jenkins will make his record 106th Test appearance alongside Adam Jones, who brings up his century of caps, and Ken Owens in the front-row.
Aaron Shingler gets the nod to fill a vacancy in the back-row left by injuries to Warburton and Tipuric.
Gatland added: “We started the tour well on Tuesday against EP Kings but it’s important we go out on Saturday and perform to the level we know we can.
“A Test series in South Africa is always a tough challenge, but we are excited by it and looking forward to getting out there.
“A lot of this side have experienced playing over here before in big games and this week is no different. It’s going to be a brilliant occasion, the atmosphere will be electric and hopefully it will be a great Test match.”
For South Africa, Cornal Hendricks will make his first Test start on Saturday, while Gurthro Steenkamp will make his 50th Test appearance.
Hendricks’ Free State Cheetahs team-mate Lodewyk de Jager has been selected on the bench for the match while Jan Serfontein comes in at inside-centre for Frans Steyn – who pulled out of the squad on Tuesday due to personal reasons – and Fourie du Preez starts at scrum-half with Ruan Pienaar on the bench.
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will equal John Smit’s Test match appearance record for South Africa of 111 when he leads out the team.
Coach Heyneke Meyer said: “I planned on giving Jan Serfontein an opportunity this month.
“He was first selected when he was 20 last year and it’s always been our plan to groom him for a long Springbok career.
“He’s been playing well for the Bulls lately and his first start for the Springboks is well-deserved after making nine appearances from the bench in 2013.”
The 32-year-old Steenkamp, who made his international debut against Scotland 10 years ago, will become the 29th Springbok to reach 50 Test caps.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Gurthrö and I’m very proud of him,” added Meyer.
“He has been playing Test rugby for a decade and is vastly experienced at all levels of the game.
“Gurthro always gives everything he has for the Springbok jersey and it’s always good to see commitment and hard work pay off.”
Meyer said he is expecting a thorough examination from Wales on Saturday.
“They started their tour well with a good win in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday evening and they are always fired up and ready,” he added.
“Wales have an experienced coaching team and they were the Six Nations champions in 2012 and 2013, as well as the backbone of the British & Irish Lions team which beat Australia last year, so this will be a massive challenge in our first Test of the season.”
|Last 10 Games played between the South Africa and Wales|
|9-Nov-13||Wales||15 – 24||South Africa|
|11-Sep-11||South Africa||17 – 16||Wales|
|13-Nov-10||Wales||25 – 29||South Africa|
|5-Jun-10||Wales||31 – 34||South Africa|
|8-Nov-08||Wales||15 – 20||South Africa|
|14-Jun-08||South Africa||37 – 21||Wales|
|7-Jun-08||South Africa||43 – 17||Wales|
|24-Nov-07||Wales||12 – 34||South Africa|
|19-Nov-05||Wales||16 – 33||South Africa|
|6-Nov-04||Wales||36 – 38||South Africa|
|Games Played||27||Games Played||27|
|*Games Won||25||*Games Won||1|
|*Games Lost||1||*Games Lost||25|
|Games Drawn||1||Games Drawn||1|
|*Longest Winning Streak||14||*Longest Winning Streak||1|
|*Longest Losing Streak||1||*Longest Losing Streak||14|
|*Largest Points For||96||*Largest Points For||36|
|*Largest Points Against||36||*Largest Points Against||96|
|*Largest Winning Margin||83||*Largest Winning Margin||10|
|*Largest Losing Margin||-10||*Largest Losing Margin||-83|
|*Total Points For||739||*Total Points For||382|
|*Avg Points For||27.37||*Avg Points For||14.15|
|*Total Points Against||382||*Total Points Against||739|
|*Avg Points Against||14.15||*Avg Points Against||27.37|
|*Total Points Difference||357||*Total Points Difference||-357|
|*Avg Points Difference||13.22||*Avg Points Difference||-13.22|
|* = By South Africa||* = By Wales|
POSSIBLE RR World Rankings outcome on Result
RSA (on 89.33 points) at home -vs- WAL (on 80.69 points)
|Possible Outcome||Rating Point
|If RSA win by 1-15 points||0.000||89.33||80.69||No|
|If RSA win by more than 15||0.000||89.33||80.69||No|
|If result is a draw||1.000||88.33||81.69||No|
|If WAL win by 1-15 points||2.000||87.33||82.69||No|
|If WAL win by more than 15||3.000||86.33||83.69||No|
South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Aaron Shingler, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Ian Evans, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Date: Saturday, June 14
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 (local, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Steve Walsh (Australia), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)