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Rugby | Springboks

Boks relishing underdog tag - De Villiers



South Africa coach Peter de Villiers insists his under-strength side will relish the opportunity to upset the odds against Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The Springboks were already without World Cup winners Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger in Cardiff and they are now missing Bath back Butch James due to Premier Rugby's stance on games which fall outside the International Rugby Board's recognised test-match windows.

Playing without so many key figures against a Welsh side desperate to defeat the world champions could have been a major blow to South African morale, but De Villiers is confident his group will rise to the challenge.

South Africa head home for an appointment with reigning Six Nations champions France in Cape Town next weekend and De Villiers wants his stand-ins to prove they are worth a place in that glamour fixture by defeating Wales.

"I told these players they must remember that I haven't announced the team to face France next week, and for a good reason - I haven't seen them play as a unit yet," he said.

"If this team stands up for itself and proves to us how good it is, then there is pressure on the other team at home for their positions."

De Villiers admits it is also important for South Africa to beat Warren Gatland's Wales to stop their opponents establishing a psychological advantage ahead of next year's World Cup.

The countries will meet in New Zealand next year and De Villiers said: "It is extremely important to start well, otherwise we place a lot more pressure on ourselves ahead of the World Cup next year.

"We are in a pool with Wales and if we don't do well on Saturday we give them a lot of confidence ahead of next year. We become just another team for them.

"We will give them a psychological advantage, and we cannot permit that."

De Villiers hands a test debut to 21-year-old Stormers centre Juan de Jongh instead of James in South Africa's midfield, while revered lock Victor Matfield also starts after flying in on Thursday to replace an injured Andries Bekker.

"This is a great opportunity for Juan, who has had a fantastic Super 14 season," he said.

"He is a talented player who has held his own in a very tough environment, and I have faith in his abilities to make the step up."

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