Wales dismiss understrength Boks claims
June 3, 2010
Wales will have to overcome the likes of back-to-back Super 14 champion captain Victor Matfield © Getty Images
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley insists a victory over world champions South Africa on Saturday would have "real meaning" despite the Springboks bringing an understrength team to Cardiff.
South Africa are without many of their front-line players due to last weekend's all-South African Super 14 final between the Bulls and Stormers, meaning it is Wales' best chance of toppling them since their solitary previous success against the Springboks in 1999.
South Africa's resources will be strengthened later on Thursday with the arrival of their revered second-row forward Victor Matfield, who has been summoned as replacement for an injured Andries Bekker, but Wales are still favourites. Howley, though, expects a trademark high-class performance from the Springboks.
"The first thing that strikes you is the level of experience and pure rugby intelligence the Springboks are able to put on the field," he said. "The strength in depth they have in South African rugby is immense, and you only have to look at the side they have selected to see that.
"They have recalled some extremely experienced players from their overseas contingent, and those players will be relishing the opportunity to pull on that green and gold jersey again. Ahead of a World Cup year, they will have something to prove to their coaches.
"If we could come away with a result against this Springbok side it would have real meaning for us and set us up for our tour of New Zealand. We keep repeating that we want to test ourselves against the best world rugby has to offer, and there is no doubting that we will be doing just that on June 5 and thereafter."
Wales will head to New Zealand later this month for appointments with the All Blacks in Dunedin and Hamilton. Wales boss Warren Gatland has billed the three games, starting this weekend, as the launch of his squad's World Cup countdown.
Wales full-back Lee Byrne said: "There are three more games of the season left, and if we could get three victories it would be a great achievement. It doesn't get much tougher - the two best teams in the world - but they are the teams you want to be playing against.
"South Africa have left a lot of players behind, but the team they've got out on Saturday still includes world-class players throughout. That's a credit to them - they've got players coming through in every position - and if we get a win at the weekend it's a big statement before we head to New Zealand."
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