Wales have a lot on the line when they take on the Springboks in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Aaron Favila/AP Photo
Wales will be playing for more than a place in the Rugby World Cup final when they clash with the Springboks in the semi-finals in Yokohama this Sunday. They’ll also be playing to give their long-serving coach, Warren Gatland, a chance of going out on the highest of highs.

The New Zealand-born Gatland will say goodbye to the Wales job he has filled since 2007 at the end of this tournament. It has been a hugely successful career for Gatland with the current Six Nations and Grand Slam champions which has included leading the side to the World Cup semi-finals in 2011 and the quarter-finals in 2015.

Gatland is one win away from the final - either against Six Nations nemesis England or New Zealand.

The Welsh are reluctant to talk about what the next few days could mean for Gatland, the players and the country.

“We don’t want to get caught up in it being Gats’ last two weeks, or week, or whatever,” said flyhalf veteran Dan Biggar. “He’d be big enough to say that it’s about making sure everything is right for us going on to the field.

“When you get to a semi-final you probably think that on your day any one of four teams can win it.”

Wales, despite having beaten the Boks on four occasions since their defeat at the 2015 tournament, go into the last-four weekend as a somewhat under-rated team, when compared to the Boks, England and New Zealand. Biggar said that perhaps had to do with the fact they struggled to get past France in their quarter-final.

“Looking at the quality of rugby in the other quarters we were certainly below that, but what we have in abundance and as much as anybody is a desire and a fight not to give in. It’s all about winning games now.

“We are going to have to be a lot better against South Africa, there’s no getting away from that. But, we are pretty happy to keep under the radar and go about our work quietly. The motivation is there ... we have two games to potentially change the rest of our lives, and we are 80 minutes away from playing in a World Cup final.”

Despite that late come-from-behind 20-19 win against France last Sunday, Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot speaks only highly of Wales. “They’re ranked third in the world; they’re the Six Nations champions. They’ve got a formidable pack, which was the heartbeat of the British and Irish Lions side two years ago, and they have one of the most experienced captains in the game leading them. Wales are a formidable side,” said Proudfoot.

He made no secret of where the Boks would look to hit Wales. “The plan is to utilise our pack as a weapon,” said the Bok forwards boss. “All the teams have great packs and they all use them differently. We in the Bok team all believe in our plan and what we want to do and it’s all about creating pressure and then taking advantage. We’re all well aligned of what we want to do, and when you have that, then you can be very powerful.”

The Boks have no injury concerns. The Welsh though have lost loose-forward Josh Navidi to injury, but will have centres Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies available for this weekend’s match.

@jacq_west 


The Star

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter