Nienaber eyes World Cup as Springboks make changes for Wales

·3-min read

South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber said developing squad depth lay behind his decision to make changes to the world champions' back-line for Saturday's match against Wales in Cardiff.

The Springboks starting XV will show three alterations to the team that beat New Zealand 31-29 in the Rugby Championship earlier this month to end a three-game losing streak.

Damian Willemse will start in place of the rested Willie le Roux at full-back, while Jesse Kriel is set to end a near three-month absence by replacing wing Sbu Nkosi, absent due to visa problems.

Herschel Jantjies will take over at scrum-half from the injured Faf de Klerk, with rival No 9 Cobus Reinach on the bench at the Principality Stadium.

"Damian and Herschel have featured off the bench a fair bit and this is an opportunity to give them a chance to start as we look to build our squad depth ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup (in France)," Nienaber said after announcing his team on Tuesday.

"We know what we have in Willie and, if we had to play a World Cup final on the weekend, we would probably select Willie because of his experience and what he has done for us in the past."

"But this is an ideal situation to allow Damian to settle himself into the full-back position. It's a little side project," he added ahead of the first match of a tour also featuring Tests against Scotland and beaten World Cup final opponents England.

- 'Fortress' -

New Zealand's 54-16 thumping of Wales in Cardiff on Saturday propelled them back to the top of the world rankings ahead of arch-rivals South Africa.

Nienaber, however, is expecting a stern test from what is likely to be a much-changed Wales.

Wayne Pivac's team for the match against the All Blacks was depleted by injuries and he was missing key personnel because it was played outside the official Test window.

South Africa squeezed past Wales 19-16 the last time the teams met, in the World Cup semi-final two years ago in Japan, but they have not won in Cardiff since 2013 -- a run of four straight defeats in the Welsh capital.

"Wales is going to be a nice challenge for us, especially if you look at our record here in Cardiff," said Nienaber.

"It is just a fortress for them, the atmosphere in the stadium is tremendous and you grow an extra arm and a leg."

Nienaber said Rassie Erasmus, his predecessor and now the Springboks director of rugby, would be alongside him in the coach's box this weekend rather than carrying water bottles, which allowed him to get onto the field during South Africa's 2-1 series win over the British and Irish Lions earlier this year.

He said the Springboks were still awaiting a verdict from a World Rugby disciplinary hearing into Erasmus' hour-long video, later posted online, in which he criticised Australian referee Nic Berry following South Africa's defeat by the Lions in the first Test.

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