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Wales's Will Rowlands tries to get the ball from Springbok Damian Willemse at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, July 2 2022. Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS
Wales's Will Rowlands tries to get the ball from Springbok Damian Willemse at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, July 2 2022. Picture: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

If Saturday’s series decider between the Springboks and Wales needed a little more needle, then both teams need look no further than the match between the next generation of both teams in Italy on Tuesday.

During a drinks break between the Junior Springboks and Wales in the final match of the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series, Welsh lock Dafydd Jenkins casually sauntered into the SA huddle and helped himself to a bottle. After they realised what was going on, the South Africans gave him a few shoves, a few words and sent him packing. 

The 6ft 7in Exeter Chiefs player left with a smirk on his face. He had obviously hoped to unsettle the South Africans, but left the match a loser after the Junior Boks put seven tries past Wales to claim the series. 

Also swimming in the Daft Dafydd bait-the-Boks waters has been former England centre Mike Tindall, who speaks on The Good, The Bad & The Rugby podcast. This week he said he thinks the Springboks play ugly rugby, but they will still win come Saturday. But he hopes they don’t. 

“Whenever they play it is pretty dull, isn’t it? It was the worst game that has ever been played at the World Cup in 2019,” said Tindall. “I hope Wales can do it. SA don’t play great rugby, I don’t think they do, but they can always stay in the game and win it because of their physicality and set-piece … I think it will be close again but I just think SA have got too much to get it done. I hope I am wrong.” 

Not too many clichés about SA rugby there, but that’s the easy way of punditry for some. Did he watch Wales play nonrugby in the first Test? Did he see a second-string team get pipped in Bloemfontein? I wonder what he said during the British & Irish Lions series in 2021?

Oh, wait, here it is … “This is the thing about SA — they tee you up to give it straight back to them. I can’t wait for the Lions to beat them. They just keep bringing up things about the World Cup final and (Owen Farrell). Every time Farrell does something well they show the thing where [Cheslin] Kolbe steps inside him or ‘He’ll make a high shot’.

“It’s that thing with South Africans that they have that full confidence that they will win every time.” 

To summarise. Tindall does not like the Springboks, nor their fans, but he still thinks they will win, it’s just that he hopes they don’t. 

Jamie Roberts, who earned 94 caps for Wales, likes SA. His short spell with the Stormers in 2020 aside, he said this week that announcing his retirement in the country meant something special to him. 

“To be in SA as well is quite poignant because it’s a place that has held quite a lot of fond memories for me down the years. It’s pretty cool. I am at peace,” he told Walesonline.

He is in SA working on the telly for the series, but was asked to help out at a Wales training session this week. 

“It was really weird. I was writing my retirement statement on Monday night and getting quite emotional about it. I just checked my phone and I had a voicemail off Wayne [Pivac, Wales coach]. I thought what’s going on here, so I listened to his message and he said: ‘Oh mate, we’re short of numbers, would you like to train with the lads?’ I don’t think Wayne knew I was going to announce my retirement.” 

How did some of the other Wales boys spend the week? A group of them, including George North, Dewi Lake, Nick Tompkins and Will Rowlands paid a visit to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, giving the kids teddies, taking pictures and spreading some love. 

Attack coach Stephen Jones, who accompanied the players to the hospital, said visits such as these are of … “huge importance. Touring is about integrating yourself in the society you are going into, you get a full appreciation for the country and how it functions. It’s great for the players and I am sure if you asked them they will say they have enjoyed their time in SA.” 

Whatever happens on Saturday, and there will be much on-field needle and distraction galore, South Africans won’t forget this Wales series in a rush. Wales will leave here with their pride restored, their tails up and their souls full of a rugby tour to remember.

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