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21 Nov 2007 09:17
Wales have never been an easy side to beat at home—not for the Springboks, anyway. In fact, after 13 matches, the Boks’ biggest winning margin against the Dragons in Wales is 17 points.
This weekend won’t be any different when the two sides meet at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, promises acting head coach of Wales, Nigel Davies.
The early elimination from the World Cup, a few lean years and the fact that they have a packed stadium for the match against the World Cup champions, will bring out the best in the team from what is arguably the most passionate rugby nation in the world.
They truly believe they can topple the world champions.
The first Test between the two countries was played in Swansea on December 1 1906, when Paul Roos’s Springbok side won 11-0 with surprising ease.
The home side had high hopes of beating the South African side which, for the first time, wore a green jersey with the Springbok emblem.
However, three tries by the Boks put paid to their hopes. The 11-point margin in that match remained the Springboks’ biggest victory against Wales until their seventh visit to the valleys of the Dragon in 1996, when they beat Wales 37-20. This victory margin was repeated in the last clash between the two sides in 2005.
Despite their good performances against the Springboks, it took Wales 13 matches before they could walk off the field as victors. That was in 1999, when they won 29-19 in the first Test at the new Millennium Stadium, still not fully completed for the matches of the 1999 World Cup.
That victory in 1999 came one day less than a year after their drubbing of 96-13 at Loftus Versfeld, when the Springboks scored, what was at that stage, their most points and biggest victory in a Test.
In 2004, the Springboks scraped through 38-36 in Cardiff, and they would do well to remember that Wales are at their best when playing at home.
For most of the Boks it will be an experience to remember on Saturday when a packed Millennium Stadium will render the passionate anthem Land of our Fathers—and if they do well enough to remain in the running, a spontaneous singing of Bread from Heaven and other traditional Welsh rugby songs.
Ask those who have been there and under pressure on the field: it’s spine-chilling. - Sapa
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