Sharks fullback Stefan Terblanche is in Cardiff visiting his former teammates at leading Welsh club Ospreys and, when the Springboks arrived in town on Saturday, he had words of warning for his fellow-South Africans.
Mike Greenaway reports for IOL.
“The Welsh guys tell me they are treating this game as a final. This is the game they are targeting (in their autumn series against touring southern hemisphere teams),” the former Springbok wing said.
“They want to start their season by beating the world champions, thus putting a marker down for the year, and they are also not happy about how things went in the Tests in South Africa in June. They feel they are better than that.”
It is a big issue for Wales coach Warren Gatland that his team have struggled for consistency in recent years. They have won the Six Nations twice in the last four years, on each occasion doing the Grand Slam but, on the negative side, they had a miserable Rugby World Cup, failing to make it out of the Pool stage, and performed poorly against the Boks earlier this year.
“They have moved on from the World Cup in that they have made a huge improvement on defence and they have added a kicking strategy to make the most of the ELVs,” Terblanche warned.
“Their previous strategy was to try and run the opposition off their feet but they are more versatile under Gatland.
“This will be the Boks’ toughest game on tour. The Welsh are waiting for them. They are not interested in just being competitive. They want this one badly, and with the tickets already sold out last week, they are going to have one heck of a crowd behind them,” he said.
After winning the Currie Cup with the Sharks, Terblanche has brought his family back to the Welsh valleys to look up their old friends and watch Saturday’s Test.
“Much has been said about the Boks needing to prepare for conditions where it is heavy under foot but the Millenium Stadium has quite a fast pitch,” Terblanche said.
“The drainage is very good. It does not get soggy and it suits the strike runners the Welsh have. It will be interesting to see how (centre) Gavin Henson goes after his two-match suspension (for an internal discipline issue at the Ospreys). I know him well. He is very good player and I am sure he will want to prove a point.”
Henson did not tour South Africa along with other star players Lee Byrne and Martin Williams, both of whom are likely to play on Saturday.
The Welsh will also have in their line-up two of the five players nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award in wing Shane Williams and No 8 Ryan Jones. The other nominees are Dan Carter (New Zealand) and Sergio Parisse (Italy).
Gatland has been in belligerent mood of late because of the nasty club versus country row that has been raging on in Wales. The fiery Kiwi managed to get a judge to order the clubs to release their national squad players for a few training sessions last week but they were back at their clubs yesterday and today for matches in the EDF Energy Cup.
On Saturday, half a dozen players that the Springboks will face were in action for the Scarlets against Northampton and on Sunday most of the Welsh team will be playing for the Ospreys against London Irish.
Gatland will be even less amused if his frontline players suffer injuries in these matches.Tweet