Springboks defend 19 changes as Wales legend Edwards cries foul

Springboks defend 19 changes as Wales legend Edwards cries foul

South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth gestures during a Test match between South Africa and Wales at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on July 2, 2022.
South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth gestures during a Test match between South Africa and Wales at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on July 2, 2022.. Photo: Christiaan KOTZE / AFP
Source: AFP

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South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber has defended making 19 changes to his squad for a potential series-clinching Test against Wales on Saturday after legend Gareth Edwards called the decision "disrespectful".

The Springboks took a 1-0 lead last weekend with a last-gasp 32-29 victory in Pretoria after three yellow cards left the Dragons with only 12 players on the field for several minutes in a frenzied finale.

Usually ultra conservative with his selections since replacing now director of rugby Rassie Erasmus in 2020, Nienaber shocked South Africans by making 14 changes to the starting line-up for Bloemfontein and 19 altogether.

Only veteran lock Eben Etzebeth, who is set to win his 99th cap, was retained in the starting line-up and the captaincy switches from flanker Siya Kolisi to fly-half Handre Pollard.

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The other three Springboks given successive call-ups -- utility back Damian Willemse, hooker Malcolm Marx and tighthead prop Vincent Koch -- are among the replacements.

The timing of the Nienaber move caught many off guard, given the belief that he would first want to win the series, then experiment in the final Test on July 16 in Cape Town.

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Nienaber said: "Many would ask: Why don't you wrap up the series and then give them (fringe players) a go in the last Test?

"If the players chosen for the second Test are going to face New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup in France next year, they must perform under pressure.

"Should we win on Saturday, the Cape Town Test will become a dead rubber and it does not matter that much whether you win or lose.

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"Wales did not come here to compete. They came here to win the series and are now playing for survival. So, we will face a fierce Welsh side."

Edwards, a brilliant scrum-half who was part of the 1974 British and Irish Lions team that trounced hosts South Africa 3-0, told the Welsh media he was "disappointed" by the 19 Springbok changes.

'Give them a good tonking'

"If there had been five or six changes, you would maybe have raised an eyebrow. But 14 changes is overwhelming.

"I do not think it shows respect for Wales and, looking logically, there is only one way to view it and that is to give them a good tonking.

"It is a great opportunity to beat them and say: Thank you very much for picking that team. I think it is a great motivation for Wales."

Current Wales captain and fly-half Dan Biggar, who kicked 14 points in Pretoria and was also yellow-carded, disagrees with Edwards.

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"I believe the team we are playing on Saturday is probably a little bit sharper because they have been playing more," said the playmaker.

"If you look at inside centre, for example, Andre Esterhuizen has been the in-form player in the English Premiership.

"They have swapped a World Cup winner in Damian de Allende for Esterhuizen and it certainly does not weaken them.

"There are lots of changes, but I do not believe they weaken the side. We are almost more wary because we are not quite sure what to expect.

"We know more about players like De Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi, so we are a little bit more cautious now."

While Nienaber made wholesale changes, Wales counterpart Wayne Pivac made only one to his starting line-up with Alex Cuthbert replacing Josh Adams, now a replacement, on the left wing.

There are three changes to the bench with props Wyn Jones and uncapped Sam Wainwright replacing Rhys Carre and concussed Tomas Francis, and Owen Watkin dropping out to accommodate Adams.

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The Test is the 12th between the teams in South Africa with Wales losing the previous 11 since 1964, including two in Bloemfontein.

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Source: AFP

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