Skipper Handre Pollard wants the new-look Springboks “to be bold and not take a step back” against Wales in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The flyhalf will become the 64th player to lead the national side when the Boks face the Welsh at Free State Stadium in the second Test of a three-match series. South Africa edged the visitors 32-29 in Pretoria last week.
Standing in for regular captain Siya Kolisi, Pollard and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick also rubbished suggestions that the Bok team featuring 14 new faces in the starting XV and six uncapped players in the match-day 23 was a “B side”.
Speaking at a Bok conference on Friday, Pollard told media: “It is an honour to captain the Springboks and it is going to be an exciting challenge. My family is here, so it is going to be a special occasion.
“Last week Monday we already knew this was going to be the plan, so this group of players has trained together for the last two weeks, and we have built cohesion in the squad.
“Of course there’s going to be disconnection some times with guys coming into the team from all over the world, but we’re prepared for that.
“We’re going to be bold in the way we play, we’re going to make mistakes, but we’ve got each other’s back and we’ve got to trust each other. We’ve got guys with unbelievable skill sets and we’ve just got to give those guys an opportunity to express themselves.”
The 60-Test-capped pivot says he will look to fellow veterans like centurion-in-waiting Eben Etzebeth, who has captained the Boks before, to help shoulder the responsibility.
He said: “There are a lot of new faces in the squad but every player deserves his spot, and we’ll have enough experience on the field as a group.
“Our leadership style has always been a group guys looking after pressure points within the game. Yes, the captain has to run out in front and speak to the ref, and that’s going to a big thing on Saturday with the way Wales challenged the ref last week.
“And they’re going to go for it again to put pressure on him, because their backs are against the wall and they’re playing against the Springboks.
“In our team, we’ve got Eben – a guy with almost 99 caps – looking after the lineouts and driving the pack, Trevor [Nyakane] looking after the scrums, myself and Warrick [Gelant] looking after where we want to play on the field.
“We’ve got leaders in every department and we’ll lead the team as best we can; it’s not a one-man job.”
On his duel with Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar, Pollard added: “Biggs is a fighter and one of the toughest flyhalves out there, and you could see that last week in the way he led his team. He won’t go away and is an inspirational guy for them.
“So we’ll get stuck into him and get after him as best we can. We know Wales will get under our skin, but we won’t take a step back. In fact, that usually brings the best out of us.
“Wales are a tough team. They don’t go away, and they are a physical, but we are prepared for that.
Of the changes to the team, Stick said: “In all honesty, calling this team a B-team is disrespecting the emblem. We have 42 players in the squad, and they have all played well for their clubs and, somehow, we have to give them opportunities.
“We do not have a B-team, we have a good balance of guys who have been around and others who have been in form, and we feel it is important to get that balance right.”
Source: SA Rugby