June International Tours

Wales get altitude advice from New Zealand

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South African rugby is having a ‘Wale’ of a time, according to South African Rugby Union (SARU) president Oregan Hoskins.


He was referring to South Africa’s strong Welsh rugby connection which came about with the arrival of the South African Under 20 side in Wales and the arrival of Warren Gatland’s 26-man Welsh squad in Cape Town.


But Gatland’s Six Nations Champions are under no illusions about the SA challenge facing them in Bloemfontein and Pretoria over the next two weeks.


More than anything else, Wales’ Kiwi-born coach wants to earn the respect of the World Cup winning Springboks by the time the teams returns home.


“One of the goals for us is to leave South Africa with some form of respect. There’s no pressure on us,” said Gatland.


“I’m not saying we’re coming here to win, we’re just here to try and earn respect from the world champions.


“If we can achieve that we would be more than happy and we will then see what happens after that. “It is going to be a massive challenge for us against the world champions, but it’s something we’re looking forward to.


“It will give us (Wales) a really good indication of where we are and how much work we’ve got to do.”


Gatland said he took advice from New Zealand Super 14 teams who advised him to prepare in Cape Town rather than travel straight to Bloemfontein, the host centre for the first Test on June 7.


“From the advice given to me I gather that the team won’t be in trouble under altitude conditions on day one and day eight,” said Gatland.


“On that basis we’ve decided to stay in Cape Town this week because research from New Zealand shows that it’s best to go up the day before the match.


“We are expecting a couple of very tough Tests on the Highveld.


“Cape Town is also a lovely place and at the end of our long season it’s good for the boys to be here.”


The two-Test tour against the Springboks will provide Wales with yardstick of how much they need to improve in their quest to climb up the world rankings table, which is presently headed by South Africa. Wales are in sixth position.


“For us this tour is also really about finding out how much we’ve improved in the last six months and how good the South Africans are,” said Gatland


“We need to know how much work we’ve got to do to improve our world ranking. “Obviously we want to compete with teams on an equal footing.


“It could be an interesting tussle between the World Champions and Six Nations champions, especially as the Springboks have a new coach in Peter de Villiers.


“We’ve heard that that he (De Villiers) is planning to run us off our feet and then put pressure on us.


“That’s one we looking forward to.”


The Welsh tourists have been ravaged by injuries and as a result they arrived on Friday without their Grand Slam stars Martyn Williams, Lee Byrne, Gavin Henson, Mike Phillips, Dwayne Peel and Huw Bennett.


Gatland felt the injuries to the scrumhalves Phillips, Peel and more recently Andy Williams will hit the team hard.


“The biggest disruption has been losing both our first-choice nines (Phillips, Peel). Then last week Williams pulled out as well,” said Gatland.


“So we are without three of the scrumhalves we had picked for the tour.


“That puts the pressure on us in such a key position, but at the same time it is a great opportunity for the likes of (Gareth) Cooper and (Warren) Furry to step up and shine.”


Gatland said the one positive that emerged from the injuries was that players had a chance to prove themselves.


“It has come to a stage where we need to develop some depth as well as saying to these guys ‘we have faith in you’. “It’s really about giving them a chance.”


Both Cooper and Furry are uncapped and the only recognised scrumhalves in the tour squad.


Sapa –Rugbyweek.com

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