Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

De Villiers ready for fierce battle

Jean de Villiers is ready for a tough encounter against Wales on Saturday.
Jean de Villiers is ready for a tough encounter against Wales on Saturday.

South Africa captain Jean de Villiers has predicted "a fierce battle" when the Springboks tackle reigning RBS 6 Nations champions Wales on Saturday.

De Villiers and company will protect an immense South African record against Wales - 24 wins from 26 starts - and they have arrived in Cardiff battle-hardened from a Rugby Championship campaign that saw them finish second behind World Cup holders New Zealand.

The Springboks won four of their six games and scored 23 tournament tries, while 10 players that started an epic title decider against New Zealand will face Wales this weekend.

"We are well-prepared," said De Villiers, who resumes his long and successful midfield partnership with a recalled Jaque Fourie.

"This team has come a long way in the last couple of months. I think we've improved drastically in certain areas and hopefully we can take that into this game.

"Obviously, we didn't end the Championship on a high (New Zealand won 38-27 in Johannesburg), but there were a lot of positives to be taken out of that game.

"We need to deliver on the field for 80 minutes and it is definitely just about the job in hand for us, knowing what is lying ahead, knowing it will be a fierce battle and knowing we will be up against a quality side, but we do know what we are capable of."

The fixture's one-sided history suggests another Springboks success this time around, but Wales have won two Six Nations titles since the countries' last meeting during World Cup 2011 and they also provided numerous individual success stories of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia a few months ago.

"To get a successful tour, we need to start well and play well against Wales," De Villiers added.

"Your first game is always your toughest game and after that your second game is your toughest game. It's the next one that counts and for us now it is Wales.

"They are pretty confident, they are riding pretty high after the Lions series and it will be a tough battle.

"You can take a lot out of the Lions series, but at the end of the day it's not the same team.

"There are (Wales) players who played in that team, but there are also crucial players who played for the Lions side that are not in the Welsh side.

"In saying that, we believe the Welsh team is a quality side and that they will be up for this game."

The five Springboks players who did not start against New Zealand five weeks ago are Fourie, full-back Pat Lambie, wing JP Pietersen, lock Flip van der Merwe and debutant prop Frans Malherbe.

Malherbe replaces an injured Jannie du Plessis and Van der Merwe starts alongside Eben Etzebeth. There is no place in the match-day 23 for Toulon second-row forward Bakkies Botha, who only joined up with the squad on Tuesday.

"Frans has big boots to fill, but he has shown good form since recovering from injury recently," Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer said of Malherbe, who packs down opposite 98 times-capped Wales loosehead Gethin Jenkins.

"We don't have any doubts that he has what it takes to make the step up.

"He will have two players with more than 50 Test caps each next to him in the scrum and his general work-rate across the field and on defence is very good."

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