Pivac insists Wales are relishing challenge of taking on South Africa

‘Write us off at your peril’: Wayne Pivac insists Wales are relishing the daunting challenge of taking on world champions South Africa in their own backyard… and Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber is wary about facing ‘a desperate Welsh side’

  • Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations and lost at home to Italy for the first time
  • Now they face the ‘ultimate challenge’ of South Africa in their own backyard 
  • But Wales coach Wayne Pivac insists his team will thrive as underdogs

Wales will depart for the ‘ultimate challenge’ of facing South Africa in their own backyard on Thursday with Wayne Pivac’s battle cry ringing in their ears.

After his team’s fifth-placed Six Nations finish and embarrassing first home loss to Italy, the task at hand against the World Cup holders looks a daunting one for Wales head coach Pivac.

But on Tuesday, the pressure didn’t look like it was weighing heavily on the former Auckland policeman as he circled the wagons, insisting his team thrive as underdogs.

Wales coach Wayne Pivac has issued a rallying cry ahead of the tour of South Africa

July 2

First Test

South Africa v Wales

Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

July 9

Second Test

South Africa v Wales

Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

July 16

Third Test

South Africa v Wales

DHL Stadium, Cape Town

KO 4.05 PM, Live on Sky Sports

‘If you write anyone off in international rugby, you do it at your peril,’ Pivac said. ‘I think we were written off in the 2021 Six Nations as well.

‘You can look back at our Six Nations and a poor performance against Italy.

‘But it is the Welsh team that turns up on the day that South Africa will have to deal with and we hope that will be a very good one.’

Against the odds, Wales did claim last year’s Six Nations title, but the defence of that crown ended in feeble fashion with just one win over Scotland and the nadir that was the Italy reversal.

Pivac’s side can’t get any worse than the performance they produced against the Azzurri in March, but they will have to be at their best to trouble South Africa.

No Welsh side has ever won a Test series in the Rainbow Nation.

‘We want to achieve success on the tour and that means winning games of rugby,’ said Pivac, who on Tuesday added young Scarlets prop Harri O’Connor to his touring party.

‘If we win one, two or three it would be success compared to what has happened in the past.

‘From our point of view, it’s a huge challenge. We are playing the world champions in their own backyard at altitude in the first two Tests and in front of their own fans for the first time since they won the World Cup. They will be heavily motivated. In Test rugby you want the ultimate challenge.

Dan Biggar will captain Wales in South Africa despite Alun Wyn Jones being in the squad

‘This is probably the ultimate challenge with South Africa at altitude, us coming off the back of our Six Nations, and with where they are at in their game.

‘I think we will be a step up from where we were in our last match.’

O’Connor, who has made just one senior regional start, has been called up with first-choice tighthead Tomas Francis nursing a back problem.

Pivac is confident Francis will be fit for the first Test.

Wales’ Springbok opener is on July 2.

Dan Biggar will be ready to captain his team in Pretoria after suffering a back injury in Northampton’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final defeat by eventual champions Leicester earlier this month. South Africa’s preparations for Wales are already well underway.

Wales finished fifth in the Six Nations and lost at home to Italy for the first time in their history

‘I expect a desperate Welsh side,’ said Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber.

‘We’ve been desperate before as the Springboks, so I know what that feels like. I think that’s what we’ll probably face.

‘We’ll face a team that is well prepared. They have had a lot of preparation time building into this series and I think they’ll be well coached and desperate.’

Dai Flanagan has been appointed as the new head coach at Welsh region Dragons after leaving his assistant role at the Scarlets.

Flanagan – who has also worked in Pivac’s Wales set-up – joins forces with current director of rugby Dean Ryan.

Former Wales centre Hadleigh Parkes will captain the Barbarians against Spain on Saturday. The invitational side hammered Eddie Jones’ England 52-21 last weekend.

Former England back-row Tom Wood will also face Spain, as will Devin Toner, Scott Baldwin, Charlie Faumuina, Tim Nanai-Williams and Joe Tekori.

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