Wales focusing on mental strength ahead of South Africa test

Wales face Test matches in Pretoria, Bloemfontein and Cape Town against the Springboks

Head coach Wayne Pivac will lead Wales into a three-Test series against South Africa
Head coach Wayne Pivac will lead Wales into a three-Test series against South Africa

Wales boss Wayne Pivac says that mental strength will be vital during a three-Test series against world champions South Africa.

Just over three months after losing at home to Italy, Wales face the Springboks at altitude in Pretoria next Saturday.

Games in Bloemfontein and Cape Town follow, with Wales returning to a country where they have never toppled their hosts on home soil.

Ten previous Tests in South Africa all went the Springboks’ way – by an average scoreline of 41-14 – while Wales have only won four of the last 12 games against all opponents.

“Nobody likes finishing on a sour note with a poor performance,” Pivac said, reflecting on the 22-21 Guinness Six Nations loss to Italy in March.

“It is a long time between drinks, as they say. For us, it is about making sure we reflect on that time wisely. From a mental point of view as well where we apply ourselves, and we’ve got to be strong mentally to go to South Africa over three Test matches.

“We need to make sure that we give ourselves every opportunity. It is not just a physical game we’ve got to be able to counter, but it is also a mental game as well. We need to make sure we are up to that challenge.

“History says we that haven’t done well there (in South Africa), clearly. We will be doing what we think we need to do to try to win the first Test, and then set ourselves up for a great series.”

Justin Tipuric scores a try for Wales in their 2016 victory over South Africa (Joe Giddens/PA)

Wales’ recent home record against South Africa is in stark contrast to their tour travails, having won four of the last five fixtures in Cardiff.

And Pivac knows his players must hit the ground running at Loftus Versfeld, where Wales’ three previous visits produced defeats to the tune of 96-13 (1998), 53-18 (2004) and 37-21 (2008).

Reflecting on home successes in the fixture, Pivac added: “I think in the past, Wales have had a very good kicking game.

“And they have had a very good defensive game and been able to negate some of the strengths South Africa bring.

“I think the key is on the day the only experience I had with the team against South Africa (last November) we had to make sure we could stop the lineout drive and try to stop the scrum penalties.

“You have also got to be good under the high ball. There is going to be a lot of kicking, a lot of clatter, and you have got to fight for everything in those areas of the game as well.

“Wales have been good at doing that. Hopefully, we will continue to be good at that, and that will put some pressure on them.

“We were embarrassed by that last performance (against Italy). There is no hiding from that.

“The players have spoken about it, management have spoken about it, and we are a better team than that.”

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