Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies takes over the captaincy
Jonathan Davies has stressed the importance of Wales staying patient when they tackle world champions South Africa on Saturday.
Scarlets centre Davies takes over the captaincy from an injured Alun Wyn Jones as Wales target a fifth successive home victory over the Springboks.
A number of other injury absentees include Jones’ fellow British and Irish Lions Ken Owens, Ross Moriarty, Justin Tipuric and George North.
But Wales, beaten 54-16 by New Zealand in their Autumn Nations Series opener last weekend, are bolstered by returning stars such as Louis Rees-Zammit and Dan Biggar.
“There has been a huge focus this week on the physicality that South Africa bring, the huge kicking battle it will be and the importance of staying in that and making sure we don’t lose patience,” Davies said.
“They are world champions and they know how to win games.
“Our focus this week is making sure in that arm-wrestle we come out on top and making sure when our opportunities come that we take them.
We understand the task ahead with South Africa and their physicality
“Those victories we’ve had at home, I think it has come down to physicality from us, the ability to move the ball and just change the point of attack.
“When you play these very good teams, you have to make sure that all aspects of your game have to be on point to earn the victory. We understand the task ahead with South Africa and their physicality.
“You have to be smart, play in the right areas, make sure we control the tempo of the game, where the game is played and not fall in the trap of how South Africa want to play.”
Jones faces shoulder surgery and a lengthy lay-off, with 92 times-capped Davies stepping into a leadership role he filled this summer against Canada and Argentina when his long-serving colleague was on Lions duty in South Africa.
“Obviously, it’s a loss to lose your captain. Al is a good mate, and it is just sad to see him go,” Davies added.
“It’s down to us to make sure that the senior players pick up the pieces to make sure that we are all trying to fill his boots. They are pretty big boots to fill.
“We are all aware of the quality we have in this squad, and for me, it’s making sure that the boys know what is required of them, they know their roles, and it’s just the excitement of getting back out in the Principality Stadium and looking to get a great result.”
Davies, meanwhile, has paid tribute to flanker Ellis Jenkins who makes his first Wales appearance on Saturday since 2018.
Jenkins’ last Wales game was an autumn Test victory over the Springboks, when he produced a man-of-the-match display before suffering a major knee injury that sidelined him from all rugby for 26 months.
“It was pretty savage. He didn’t deserve that,” Davies said.
“He has put in a huge effort over the last three years to get himself back to the level that he has obviously strived for since the injury, and credit to him.
“It’s difficult when you see any of the boys go down with bad bumps. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game and it’s the nature of the beast.
“Hats off to him to get back in contention and in the starting team.
“You get tested mentally through long-term injuries, but I think one thing it does is make you appreciate it far more after being through it. When it is taken away from you, you crave for it and want it even more.
“And when you do get back there, you like to think you don’t take it for granted and give it your best shot, and I am sure that is what Ellis will be doing tomorrow.”
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