De Villiers wary of Wales test

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The Independent Online

There was good and bad news for Wales yesterday ahead of their first Test against South Africa here on Saturday. The good: visiting coach Warren Gatland was hailed as the best in the business by his opposite number Peter De Villiers; the bad: the Proteas flanker Juan Smith was declared fit for the match, which will test De Villiers' assertion to the full.

De Villiers, the first black coach of the Springboks, takes charge of South Africa for the first time against Wales and the world champions will go into the match as hot favourites but De Villiers is taking nothing for granted.

"Wales will be a good team," he said. "They did not win the Six Nations by watching the game. They know what they are doing. And in Warren Gatland they have the best coach in world rugby at present. Therefore, we have great respect for them. We'll go out to do our best."

Both teams will be without star performers because of injuries with the Boks particularly hard hit by the loss of flanker Schalk Burger, scrum-half Fourie Du Preez and centre Jaque Fourie. However, De Villiers still has the nucleus of the World Cup-winning squad available and although he will only name his team today, he has already confirmed hooker John Smit will captain the team, becoming the first man to lead the Boks on 50 occasions.

The Wales squad is shorn of hooker Huw Bennett, flanker Martyn Williams, No 8 Alix Popham, scrum-halves Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillips, plus centre Gavin Henson and full-back Lee Byrne. But De Villiers is still expecting a stern test. "We may even see a stronger team," he warned. "The excitement and enthusiasm that new players bring to the team could spell danger to the Springboks."