Warren Gatland wants Wales to overcome ‘fear factor’ against Springboks

LIAM Williams (centre) is back on the wing for Wales after returning from Japanese club rugby. Photo: EPA

LIAM Williams (centre) is back on the wing for Wales after returning from Japanese club rugby. Photo: EPA

Published Jun 20, 2024


WALES head to Twickenham as massive underdogs against the Springboks on Saturday, but head coach Warren Gatland has urged his side to embrace the occasion and meet the challenge of the world champions head on.

After winning only one of their five Six Nations Tests this year, the Red Dragons will be desperate to turn their fortunes around in London (3pm SA time kick-off), especially playing against a South African side with 10 World Cup winners in the starting team and six more on the bench.

Bok lock Eben Etzebeth has 119 caps to his name, one more than the combined Test-match experience of the entire pack of Welsh forwards.

That says a lot about the mountain they will have to climb on Saturday for another victory over the Boks, even though the South Africans are also missing some key players due to injury and unavailability outside World Rugby’s Test window.

Despite several World Cup winners absent, head coach Rassie Erasmus could still select an experienced side, mixed with some exciting youngsters who performed against the Welsh clubs in the United Rugby Championship this season.

Wales will be without World Cup co-captain, flank Jac Morgan, which is a big loss for the side.

— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 (@WelshRugbyUnion) June 18, 2024

He has been ruled out of the entire mid-year programme – the Welsh also have a two-Test series against Australia – due to a hamstring injury.

“You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side. There is nothing wrong with that – you have to be brave and overcome your fear factor,” Gatland said, according to the Welsh Rugby Union website.

“You are going out there and playing against big men, and it’s going to hurt. That is the way you improve, by playing against the best. That’s not just in rugby, but any sport – it is the biggest part of your development.

“Test-match rugby is tough and physical, and you have got to be able to handle adversity. It is probably not the politically correct thing at the moment in today’s society, but you have to be mentally tough.”

— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 (@WelshRugbyUnion) June 18, 2024

Hooker Dewi Lake will captain the side, with the experienced Liam Williams back on the wing after returning from club rugby in Japan.

Only No 8 Aaron Wainwright (48), loosehead prop Gareth Thomas (30), outside centre Owen Watkin (38) and Williams (89) played in 30 or more Tests for the Welsh.

Wales Team

15 Cameron Winnett 14 Liam Williams 13 Owen Watkin 12. Mason Grady 11 Rio Dyer 10 Sam Costelow 9 Ellis Bevan 8 Aaron Wainwright 7 James Botham 6 Taine Plumtree 5 Ben Carter 4 Matthew Screech 3 Henry Thomas 2 Dewi Lake (captain) 1 Gareth Thomas.

Bench: 16 Evan Lloyd 17 Kemsley Mathias
18 Keiron Assiratti 19 James Ratti 20 Mackenzie Martin 21 Gareth Davies 22 Eddie James 23 Jacob Beetham.

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