Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Edwards: We'll muscle up against SA

Shaun Edwards is braced for a "gladiatorial" Test match when Wales open their autumn international series against South Africa next Saturday.

Shaun Edwards is braced for a "gladiatorial" Test match when Wales open their autumn international series against South Africa next Saturday.

It will be the countries' first meeting since a gripping 2011 World Cup pool game in Wellington that South Africa edged 17-16.

Wales subsequently went on to reach the World Cup semi-finals and land successive RBS 6 Nations titles, but they have only beaten the Springboks once in 26 meetings stretching back 107 years.

Coach Warren Gatland is set to name his team on Tuesday, with injured backs Alex Cuthbert and Jamie Roberts probably being replaced by Scarlets pair Liam Williams and Scott Williams, respectively.

Elsewhere, Rhys Priestland also looks poised for a return at fly-half following his Achilles tendon injury last term, while Cardiff Blues forward Bradley Davies could partner Alun-Wyn Jones at lock.

"If you like your rugby as gladiatorial, then get a ticket for Saturday because this will be no place for the faint-hearted," Wales defence specialist Edwards said.

"We have to muscle up against these boys. We practise our tackling a lot, but we certainly have been concentrating on that this week.

"South Africa are also a skilful team as well and they are not just based on power, which they proved by scoring four tries against the All Blacks last time they played. They play with a lot of width as well, so they have a lot of options.

"Probably the best team I have ever coached against was the South African team of 2009, although there have been some great New Zealand sides. That South African team beat New Zealand three times in the same season.

"This is the best Springboks team since then, and (coach) Heyneke Meyer has done a great job. We know what we are going up against."

Recounting the World Cup clash two years ago, Edwards added: "I watched it the other day. It just shows the small margins at elite level sport.

"But I would have been a lot more worried if we had lost that match by 30 points than just losing by one.

"We have had some close calls with South Africa over the years and there has only been a few lapses of concentration that have stopped us winning."

Springboks boss Meyer, meanwhile, wants to let his players loose in wet weather at the Millennium Stadium, with strong indications that he could push for the roof to be kept open, whatever the match-day elements.

Both coaches must agree in order for the roof to be closed, but Meyer is already looking towards World Cup 2015, which will be hosted in England.

"We need to adapt with the World Cup being held in England in 2015," he said.

"I have always said that there is no bad weather, only soft people, so we have to have the right mindset. Once we start worrying about the conditions or the roof, we are in the wrong mindset.

"I actually want it to rain this week because that is what we will face in the World Cup. The more the better.

"The team has to be mentally tough to play in all conditions, and the worse they are this tour then the better for us.

"I do not believe in preparing players indoors and having a cushy week in the warm.

"You should train in exactly the same conditions you are going to play in, and if any of the guys show they are not mentally tough, they will not be here for the World Cup. I will probably be disappointed if it is sunny on Saturday."

Meyer, who guided his team to second place behind New Zealand in the recent Rugby Championship, has reported no injuries, with star wing Bryan Habana making a successful comeback following hamstring trouble for his club Toulon two days ago.

"I want to see what some players are made of and whether they can make it to the next level," Meyer added.

"We learned about others a year ago, and they are not here anymore. I want to finish this tour knowing 25 of my World Cup squad."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre