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Cuthbert upbeat ahead of stern test

Alex Cuthbert believes Wales will not be engulfed by external pressure when they tackle South Africa in a two-Test series later this month.

Wales' record against the Springboks does not auger well for appointments in Durban on June 14 and Nelspruit seven days later.

They have beaten South Africa just once in 27 attempts - and that was at the Millennium Stadium 15 years ago - while they will fly out on Thursday minus injured stars such as Sam Warburton, Leigh Halfpenny and Richard Hibbard.

But Cardiff Blues wing Cuthbert is not daunted by the task that awaits Wales in the two Tests and the clash against Eastern Province Kings on June 10.

"There is definitely confidence," he said. "Our squad has been together for three to four years, and the confidence we have in each other is really high.

"We just need a bit more consistency and the bit of luck that every Test team needs.

"We are just looking forward to getting down there, and we will hopefully put in a performance over the three games.

"There are not many people (pundits) putting pressure on us, so we will just go out there and play. Everyone expects us to lose, but we are quietly (confident) within the squad.

"We are just going to take each game as it comes. We have a game on the Tuesday against Eastern Province Kings, so we will see what the team will be. Hopefully, we will get the win, and then we will prepare for the Test."

Cuthbert is likely to line up opposite South African wing superstar Bryan Habana, who is fresh from a Heineken Cup and French Top 14 trophy double with Toulon and remains one of world rugby's deadliest finishers.

It is a challenge, though, that Cuthbert will relish.

"He has to be one of those (wings) at the top," Cuthbert added.

"Think of those tries he scored against New Zealand last season. If he hadn't got injured (in that game), South Africa probably would have won.

"Watching him over the years, he's been a world-class player and has sort of changed the way wingers play in terms of how they get involved in the game.

"It's just the amount of touches he has per game. He doesn't just stay on the wing, he comes in off 10, 9, first receiver, and his kick-chase is probably one of the best in the business as well.

"He still has that influence in the Springboks squad - it shows how important he is to them. He is such a threat from anywhere.

"He has all that experience now. Winning the World Cup and all the other trophies that he has won, he's just about as high up there as any winger can be.

"It's definitely a good yardstick to face him.

"I've played against a lot of other top wingers - (New Zealand's) Julian Savea is probably one of the toughest opponents I have faced - but Habana is going to be right up there. I am looking forward to the challenge, if I am selected."

While South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has recalled the likes of veterans Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger to face Wales, the visitors have sprinkled their experienced edge with young talent like Jordan Williams and Matthew Morgan.

"We have that youth," Cuthbert said. "The boys are not scared, they are just keen and hungry to get out there and play.

"The likes of Matthew Morgan and Jordan Williams are electric. If you give them space, I don't think any team will be able to cope with them.

"With South Africa's old heads in certain situations they can win you games because Test rugby is so close and experience really does count. I guess it could work in their favour, but having a young squad could work in our favour as well."

While international matters currently dominate Cuthbert's agenda, his domestic career next season will see working him with new Blues chief Mark Hammett, who has replaced Phil Davies in the Arms Park coaching hot-seat.

"I am looking forward to it," Cuthbert added. "I feel at home with the Blues. I'm fully behind them and have shown my commitment to them over the past couple of years.

"I've had chances to go, but I decided to say. I am happy at the moment with them, and I'm looking forward to the new season."


From Belfast Telegraph