Wales coach Warren Gatland says it is a big loss for the Boks to be without Cheslin Kolbe, but suggests they would have looked to ‘target him aerially’.
Chatting to the media ahead of Sunday’s massive semi-final clash against the Boks in Yokohama, Gatland was frank in his assessment of what is expected to be a battle of attrition and aerial warfare.
‘Obviously he [Kolbe] is a big loss to them with his ability to score tries and his footwork. We were probably going to target him aerially anyway. You talk about their kicking game, I think our kicking game has to be good as well. They definitely have a bit of pace in the back three.
‘At this stage of the tournament, you are always going to lose a couple of quality players, and in them losing Kolbe and us losing Liam Williams, it’s probably one each in terms of that.’
Gatland added that he could no understand why some people were writing Wales off.
‘Our record against South Africa has been pretty good in the last four or five years. That speaks for itself. Going into Sunday’s game it is going to be a tight game and we saw that first half in South Africa vs Japan was a tight game.
‘It will probably be a kicking fest, they kicked 30 times against Japan so we just have got to handle their game. It won’t be the prettiest game in the world, it will be a tight Test match with probably teams playing for territory depending on what the weather is like.
‘The ball will go in the air and we have got to be able to handle that and we have got to be able to handle our game as well.’
The wily Welsh coach also acknowledged that they might have some tricks up their sleeve when it came to countering the Boks’ physicality and strength.
‘They are a good team. I thought against France last week, our lineout defence was excellent. We didn’t allow them to get momentum from that aspect. South Africa have a very, very good scrum, have depth in that area with bringing guys off the bench and quality guys to come off the bench, so our bench becomes important.
‘You’ve got to be smart in terms of the way you play. We have played against some big sides already this tournament, big, physical teams. Probably for us, it’s important and you speak a lot about our conditioning and how hard we worked from a fitness perspective – that we are able to hopefully cope with that. We talk about physicality that other teams bring against us.
‘We have got to not just match but bring our own physicality in terms of a World Cup semi-final. And that’s important when you play South Africa, they are definitely physical. Against Japan, I was surprised Vermeulen wasn’t red-carded during the game or cited afterwards. Having looked at an incident, we have to match the physicality that South Africa is going to bring.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 25, 2019
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