Warren Gatland says his Wales team expects a physical onslaught from the Springboks in the semi-final on Sunday.
Speaking at his team announcement media conference on Friday, Gatland explained that because South Africa lean more on size and power than most other Test sides, Wales have to be smart when fronting the Boks.
‘They’re a big team and we’re aware of that and it’s trying to limit set piece opportunities. You have to be accurate,’ Gatland said.
‘South Africa are very strong in the scrum and they have quality guys to come off the bench. You have to be smart in terms of the way that you play. We’ve played against some big sides already in this tournament. Some big physical teams,’ he added.
Gatland believes it’s important that Wales don’t shy away from the challenge and front up to the physicality.
‘It’s important and we speak a lot about our conditioning. We’re able to cope with that. We talk about the physicality that other teams bring but we have to bring our own as well. It’s a World Cup semi-final.
‘That’s important when you play South Africa. They were physical against Japan. I was surprised Duane Vermuelen wasn’t red carded or cited after that match.’
The Wales coach also lauded his Bok counterpart, Rassie Erasmus, for South Africa’s improved standing in the world order.
‘They’ve improved under Rassie and gone back to their strengths and that is why I’m looking forward to this game more than I did to last week’s.’
The Boks will be without wing Cheslin Kolbe and Wales will be without fullback Liam Williams due to injuries the players sustained in their respective quarter-finals. But Gatland insists that injuries are part and partial of the game and that the replacements (Sbu Nkosi for South Africa and Leigh Halfpenny for Wales) are just as good as their crocked peers.
‘They’ve lost Cheslin and we’ve lost Liam. At this stage of the tournament, you’re always going to lose players.Obviously he’s (Kolbe) a big loss for them in terms of his ability to score tries and his footwork, but they’ve definitely got a bit of pace in their back three with Nkosi there.’
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images