Bloemfontein – Wales and British Lions legend, Sir Gareth Edwards, expects Wales to give the Springboks “a good tonking” after they ”disrespected” the tourists by making 14 changes to the team that won the first Test last week.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber says he has a plan to build depth over the course of the three-Test series and contends that he has not compromised his team’s ability to beat the Welsh, but Edwards thinks Nienaber has gone too far and has devalued the series.
“The big disappointment for me was to learn South Africa has changed virtually their whole team,” Edwards told Wales Online.
“They have got every right to prepare for the Cup, but I would really like to know what their logic is in changing so many.
“I suppose the only way they can justify it is if they win but I think it shows a little bit of disrespect,” added Edwards, who scored the try widely accepted to be the best ever in the history of the game, his famous score for the Barbarians against New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in 1973.
“If there had been five or six changes, you would maybe have raised an eyebrow. But 14 changes, it’s overwhelming.
“I don’t think it shows respect for Wales and, looking logically, there is only one way (for Wales) to view it and that’s to give them a good ‘tonking’, as they say.
“It is a great opportunity to beat them and say, ‘Thank you very much for picking that team’.
“I am not going to suggest that I know all that is right and wrong about the modern game, except that it is a pretty physically demanding set-up, and it is important that you do (make changes), but there are ways and means of changing. I think it has stunned a lot of people.
“I think they (the Wales players) are probably talking to each other and saying, ‘Right boys, that’s what they think of us’. I think it is great motivation for Wales.
“I think it (South Africa’s team selection) does, to an extent (devalue the game). There is a lot at stake, but I think it takes a bit of an edge out of it. That is not Wales’ fault.”
Edwards, of course, knows all about playing the Springboks. He was the scrumhalf to another Welsh legend in flyhalf Phil Bennett in the 1974 British Lions tour to South Africa. That team won the Test series 3-0, with the fourth Test drawn, and they won all 18 of their games against provincial opposition.
Bennett died three weeks ago and the Welsh paid tribute to him by wearing black armbands in the first Test.
“Take it from me, any side I’ve played against in a green and gold jersey, you are going to have to give respect to,” Edwards continued. “It is not going to be easy, far from it, second team or not. My warning is don’t treat it lightly — treat it like it is the same team.”