FILE - In this Saturday, July 8, 2017 file photo, British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland walks on the field in Auckland, New Zealand. The Welsh Rugby Union says on Monday, July 9, 2018 former New Zealand police constable Wayne Pivac will take over from Warren Gatland as coach of the national team after next year's World Cup. Pivac has performed the same role at the Scarlets since 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, file)

CARDIFF – Wales have won their last three meetings with South Africa, but when the Springboks run out in Cardiff on Saturday, Warren Gatland’s men will know they face a significant challenge.

Only Rassie Erasmus’ side stand between Wales and a clean sweep this autumn.

Four straight wins would represent a fine campaign, and the first time Wales have done so in the autumn – but an upwardly mobile South Africa side will have a different idea altogether. 

The Springboks are improving rapidly and in the Rugby Championship after claiming a famous win over New Zealand, while they also came close to a second success over the mighty All Blacks.

On their northern hemisphere tour, they lost by a point in the most dramatic of fashions to England, but responded with impressive successes over France and Scotland.

“I think South Africa have gone back to their traditional rugby. They have big, physical players and they are direct. It is going to be a real challenge,” said Gatland.

“The good thing about where we are is we are building in confidence. Self-belief and confidence is a massive thing in creating momentum and we have done that.

“That was a big part of that second-half performance against Tonga. You are not going to dominate every game or every period of every game.

“We have had some good success over South Africa in recent years, so it will be important for us to build on that.

“It would be nice to have a clean sweep in the autumn and start thinking about the Six Nations.”

Wales’ last meeting with South Africa saw them triumph 22-20 over the Springboks in Washington DC as the two sides met at the RFK Stadium. 

Scarlets hooker Ryan Elias came up with a dramatic and late match-winning try in that encounter in the American heat, but the two teams which will meet at Principality Stadium this weekend could be very different. 

After victories over Scotland, Australia and Tonga, Wales are in a good place.

“Yes, absolutely this is the most competitive squad we’ve had. We’ve always spoken about creating depth,” said Gatland, whose team scored 10 tries against Tonga. 

“As a coaching set-up, we’ve said that when we leave, we want to leave the squad in the best possible position.

“I think going forwards, Welsh rugby is in a good place, and it’s nice to have those headaches. The hardest thing for me about selection is the players who miss out. 

“I know how disappointed they are, and I expect that because they should back themselves to be in the team. There are definitely going to be some disappointed players against South Africa.”

African News Agency (ANA)