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Stephen Jones will win his 50th Wales cap in the clash with South Africa - seven years after making his debut against the Springboks on a day still considered one of the worst in the 125-year history of Welsh rugby. [more]

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Stephen Jones will win his 50th Wales cap in the clash with South Africa – seven years after making his debut against the Springboks on a day still considered one of the worst in the 125-year history of Welsh rugby.

Wales were thumped 96-13 at the Loftus Versveld – a scoreline which remains their record defeat to any nation – and were only saved the humiliation of conceding a century of points when Naka Drotske dropped the ball with the line begging.

That would have been South Africa’s 16th try of the game. Jones was on the field by then, introduced as a 50th-minute replacement in the centre. It was like stepping into the path of a Japanese bullet train.

But he survived the experience, learned from it, grew as a player and Saturday’s clash with the Springboks completes a remarkable full circle for the 27-year-old from Llanelli.

Since that day in Pretoria Jones has captained his country, has played for the British & Irish Lions, is a Grand Slam winner and now only the 16th member of Wales’ 50-cap club.

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"That day feels like another era completely," Jones reflected this week.

"The first game was such an amazing experience. It was a drubbing and afterwards in the changing room I was disappointed to have been part of a Wales team that was destroyed.

"But it was still a great moment for me because I had won my first cap.

"I just remember we didn’t have much of the ball and it was just tackling practice really. They were in full flow, full rhythm, they were ruthless and just went for the jugular.

"But that wasn’t a fair reflection of Welsh rugby. It wasn’t our strongest team and 12 months later we got a result against them."

That victory – 29-19 in Wales’ first Test at the Millennium Stadium – remains their only success over South Africa in the 99-year history of the fixture.

Wales came within two points last year, just before Welsh rugby hit the heights it has not enjoyed for 27 years with a Grand Slam triumph.

That obviously sticks out as the high point of Jones’ career, but intriguingly it is the low points that he focuses on more. And there have been plenty of those, from day one onwards.

"The Grand Slam and what happened last year sticks in my mind as a huge high point," he added.

"But you get a lot of your motivation from the low times. You enjoy the successes, but the games I remember are the games we lose because I take more from them."

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