Ryan Jones has warned his Wales players that their hopes of making the British and Irish Lions 2009 tour to South Africa will be significantly damaged if they succumb to another heavy defeat by the Springboks this afternoon.
Wales are in Pretoria and the Lions' head coach, the Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan, will be watching the second Test from the Loftus Versfeld stands. Jones, thought by many to be a leading candidate for the Lions captaincy, yesterday called for a sharp improvement on Wales' display in a 43-17 defeat in Bloemfontein last week.
"After everything I've been through over the last 12 months I know that a year is an awful long time," said Jones, who has come back from serious injury to lead his country. "So we won't be thinking too much about the Lions. But it's fair to say none of us will be going [on tour] if we don't pull our fingers out and start putting in some big performances."
Wales' coach, Warren Gatland, has made seven changes to his team, three of them positional. The Ospreys fly-half James Hook is at full-back and the Cardiff Blues full-back Jamie Roberts is at inside centre. Jones, who moves to the blind-side flank to accommodate Gareth Delve at No 8, said the squad had had a hard week.
"Sunday and Monday were pretty difficult," he said. "It's always tough when you lose. We're a proud bunch and, like all sportsmen, we take losing personally, especially in the manner that we did.
"It was a tough couple of days but all you have to do is get back on the horse and refocus as quickly as possible. We need to get ready as quickly as we can, deal with the mental demons and put everything right.
"We have to be upbeat. We've only got each other out here. We're thousands of miles away from home and there are 26 of us. We are optimistic – we go into every game hoping to win. This is an opportunity to redeem ourselves."
South Africa's coach, Peter de Villiers, has emphasised the difficulty of the task facing Wales this afternoon by recalling Victor Matfield, the leading lock in the world, to his starting team and giving Francois Steyn, one of the most promising backs in the game, a place on the bench.
South Africa: C Jantjes; T Chavhanga (both Western Province), A Jacobs (Sharks), J de Villiers (Western Province), B Habana (Blue Bulls); B James (Bath), E Januarie (Lions); T Mtawarira (Western Province), J Smit (Clermont Auvergne, capt), B J Botha (Sharks), B Botha (Blue Bulls), V Matfield (Toulon), L Watson (Western Province), J Smith (Cheetahs), P Spies (Blue Bulls). Replacements: B du Plessis (Sharks), G Steenkamp (Blue Bulls), A Bekker (Western Province), R Kankowski (Sharks), J Conradie (Western Province), F Steyn (Sharks), P Montgomery (Perpignan).
Wales: J Hook (Ospreys); M Jones (Scarlets), T Shanklin, J Roberts (both Blues), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), G Cooper (Gloucester); G Jenkins (Blues), R Hibbard (Ospreys), R Thomas (Dragons), I Gough, A-W Jones, R Jones (capt), J Thomas (all Ospreys), G Delve (Gloucester). Replacements: TR Thomas (Blues), Duncan Jones, I Evans (both Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), W Fury (London Irish), A Bishop (Ospreys), T James (Blues).
Referee: L Bray (New Zealand).Reuse content