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Boks have a burly backbone

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Wales coach Wayne Pivac is not going to be hoodwinked into believing that Handré Pollard’s side is a Mickey Mouse combination.

Handré Pollard will captain South Africa in the second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein. Picture: Nathan Munkley, Action Plus, Shutterstock, BackpagePix

HELL will have no fury like a Welsh team scorned, according to Wales great Sir Gareth Edwards, but I think dear old Gareth is entrenched in a bygone era because the Springbok team he feels is an insult to Wales is possibly better than the one that beat his beloved Dragons the first Test.

Edwards says the Welsh team will be fired up because of the disrespect shown by 14 changes to the Bok starting team for the second Test in the Free State capital but Wales coach Wayne Pivac is not going to be hoodwinked into believing that Handré Pollard’s side is a Mickey Mouse combination.

ALSO READ: Boks have disrespected Wales by picking ‘B’ team says Wales legend

Speaking of Pollard, let’s look at the spine of the starting XV he is captaining. Wise men often say that if the Nos 15, 12, 10, nine, four and two are good players, then you should be fine, and if the flesh you are adding to that spine are also good players then it will be difficult to lose.

So, let us compare last week’s spine to this week’s, starting with fullback. Warwick Gelant for Damian Willemse? No issues there. Gelant was fantastic for the Stormers and is in the form of his life. At 12, Damian de Allende played very well last week but the Boks are going to lose nothing and maybe gain a little by André Esterhuizen’s recall from the wilderness. The blockbusting Harlequin has been brilliant in the English Premiership.

ALSO READ: Wales team virtually unchanged for second Test

Flyhalf? Pollard was a latecomer to the squad last week and did not qualify for selection. Elton Jantjies had to play and unfortunately, he played badly, so surely nobody is quibbling about the change here.

Scrumhalf this week is a bit iffy. Faf de Klerk was nowhere near his best in the first Test and maybe should have continued this week. Jaden Hendrikse has some sublime skills but clearing speedily from the base of the scrums/breakdowns is not one of them.

His competition at the Sharks, Grant Williams, is the cover on the bench and he is far quicker, so there is that insurance.

At No.8 Evan Roos makes his debut and the rugby world is celebrating. It is a long time since there has been this much excitement over a youngster. The 22-year-old has it all — raw power, a work rate powered by a V8 engine, great defence, and most of all, the exuberance and arrogance of youth. In short, he is irrepressible.

Last week, Jasper Wiese was the Man of the Match, and he did get stuck in, but Roos is the Full Monty.

Eben Etzebeth continues at No.4 so there is obviously no debate here but it is worth noting that the big fellow was a bit rusty in the first Test and he will surely be better in Bloem.

At hooker, Joseph Dweba has been in blistering form for Bordeaux in the French Top 14. The dreadlocked Dweba is back in his hometown after cutting his professional teeth at the Cheetahs and I can’t see the Boks losing much from Bongi Mbonambi not continuing, and the best hooker of the three, Malcolm Marx, will do his destructive thing in the second half.

This is a team of in-form players and the only question I have is how quickly they can gel. At least they have been practising as a team for over a fortnight because all of this was planned months ago, although a match situation is very different from the training field.

Let Pivac have the final word: “It’s going to be 15 rugby players in green shirts. We’re expecting more of the same. They are a very experienced team no matter what combinations they put out.

“This side is one to be respected and not taken lightly.”

Springboks starting XV (15-1): Warrick Gelant, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jesse Kriel, André Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Handré Pollard (capt), Jaden Hendrikse, Evan Roos, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marcell Coetzee, Marvin Orie, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Thomas du Toit. Bench (16-23): Malcolm Marx, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Vincent Koch, Ruan Nortjé, Rynhardt Elstadt, Deon Fourie, Grant Williams, Damian Willemse.

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