CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — To Wales, the time is right to beat the southern hemisphere's best rugby teams.
The Welsh have two shots at it this month: The Springboks on Saturday, followed by the Wallabies in three weeks. They have spent much of the buildup to the autumn internationals gnashing teeth over their woeful record against the big three, including the All Blacks.
Since Warren Gatland became coach in 2008, Wales has won three Six Nations but bagged only one win in 21 tests against the big three — Australia in 2008. By comparison, England has beaten New Zealand and Australia in the past year, and drew with South Africa 18 months ago in Port Elizabeth.
But this month will be different, the Welsh say. Confidence is high after their swag of British Lions helped to win the summer series in Australia. "There is enough experience now so that we can make an impact against the southern hemisphere sides over the next couple of years," Gatland said. "That's a task."
Captain Sam Warburton said: "We want a scalp in a Welsh shirt now. To win the series for the Lions in Australia was immense, we will take massive confidence from that, but until we beat one of these (southern hemisphere) sides we can't call ourselves contenders for the World Cup."
Lock Alun Wyn Jones added, "We've been close in the last 12-18 months. We need to start converting those narrow losses into wins. "It's very easy to say game management, scrum or set-piece was the reason but I don't know. It's a difficult one to say because your strength and weakness can change week-in, week-out, especially at the top end. What we have learnt when we have been close will be invaluable for what's coming up."
But South Africa is determined to extend its winning streak against Wales to 14 tests since 1999. "It's not going to be easy for us, but we are up for the challenge," recalled Springboks winger JP Pietersen said. "We come here to win and I hope it's going to be a great encounter."
The Springboks will see Wales vulnerable in the centers by the absence of Lions star Jamie Roberts, who has been replaced by Scott Williams. Williams will be comforted to be surrounded in the backline by three fellow Scarlets, including left wing Liam Williams, who came in for Eli Walker on Thursday after Walker, set to make his debut, strained a hamstring and was likely out of the autumn tests.
Springboks tighthead prop Frans Malherbe will make his debut against Gethin Jenkins, playing his 99th test.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Liam Williams, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones, Bradley Davies, Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Gethin Jenkins. Reserves: Ken Owens, Paul James, Scott Andrews, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Ashley Beck.
South Africa: Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Flip van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malberhe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Pienaar, JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux.