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Boks out to break the Wales hoodoo

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South Africa national rugby team player Bongi Mbonambi challenged by Maro Itoje of the British & Irish Lions, in the third Test. Picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

For the Boks, playing Wales at the Millennium Stadium has become something like playing the Wallabies in Australia.

FOR NEARLY 100 years Wales could not beat the Springboks, only breaking their duck in 1999, but since 2016 Cardiff has proved impregnable for the Boks and they have lost four in a row to the Welsh.

The Boks did squeeze past Wales in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup but International Stadium Yokohama is not the Millennium Stadium and the Boks are going to have to pull finger if they are to reverse a worrying trend in the Welsh capital, especially considering their game a week next Saturday falls in the international window.

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That means, Wales will be at full strength, which will not be the case when they host the All Blacks on Saturday without their players who are based in the English Premiership.

For the Boks, playing Wales at the Millennium Stadium has become something like playing the Wallabies in Australia and not long ago we saw Siya Kolisi’s men perish twice on Australian soil despite so much talk beforehand about the need to address their poor away record against the Wallabies.

The Boks are now in Paris preparing for their three-match tour in the UK and once again they are talking about arresting an unfortunate away trend, as they were during the Rugby Championship.

Yesterday it was hooker Bongi Mbonambi who said it was high time the Boks won in Cardiff.

“We know that our record in Wales hasn’t been good and we are definitely trying to rectify that,” Mbonambi said. “Coach Jacques (Nienaber) has spoken at length about it in our meetings, but we also know that this is a new tour and we are growing all the time as a team and we will have a full week in Cardiff to prepare and get our ducks in a row.

“The Welsh side is always a tough team to beat, especially at home where they have 75,000 fans crammed into the Millennium Stadium.

“I know we beat them at the World Cup, but they are always a difficult side. Their forwards are very experienced and they have a number of recent British & Irish Lions (including captain Alun Wyn Jones), but they also have a good backline, again with quite a few recent Lions.”

In the front row is Ken Owen, the hooker Mbonambi literally butted heads with in the series against the Lions in July, and they will be charmed to renew their acquaintance.

“We know we are going to face top-quality hookers. We know they enjoy scrum battles,” Mbonambi said. “So, we are looking forward to those battles. We know we are in for a massive forward battle full stop, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Ironically, the newest Bok in the fold, Salmaan Moerat, has had the most recent experience of playing in the UK having just been there with the Stormers.

“Salmaan has just played four United Rugby Championship matches there and has been giving us a few pointers on what it’s like,” Mbonambi said.

“Obviously we have other guys in the group who are well versed in the conditions and we know what to expect after playing (in different conditions) in the Rugby Championship in Australia.”

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