Rugby World Cup 2011
Wales ready for Bok challenge
Warren Gatland (Gallo)
Wellington - Wales coach Warren Gatland has promised they will field their strongest possible side to face champions South Africa in their opening Rugby World Cup pool match in Wellington on September 11.
Wales are in a Pool D also featuring Fiji, who knocked them out at the group stage in France four years ago, and a Samoa side who recently beat highly-fancied Australia.
But New Zealander Gatland insisted there was no way his adopted country would keep their powder dry against the Springboks in order to concentrate on the threat posed by the Pacific Island nations.
And he said Wales were looking forward to playing South Africa first, despite the Springboks well-known qualities.
They are very good at what they do," Gatland said at Wales's hotel on Saturday. "They put the ball up in the air and use power runners. We pretty well know what we are going to get.
"They'll play to their strengths and that's what they are good at doing. They are certainly a hard side to beat. But playing them first up in this competition is a great opportunity for us."
Wales go into the match on the back of warm-up wins against England, runners-up to South Africa four years ago, and Argentina, third in 2007.
But Wales have beaten South Africa just once in their history and have lost their last 12 matches against the Springboks.
Gatland said: "It's been a great couple of months having the players together as a squad and we are pretty happy with the way the August games went. We are really in pretty good shape.
"The last three times we have played them (South Africa) there's been very little in the scores. We have scored them seven tries to six. Now we've just got to get over the final hurdle and get that win."
The former Ireland coach added: "We can match their forwards. We are going to put out the strongest side we can. I don't think that in the last few times we've played them we have been far away from them as a team.
"It's one game at a time for us and we have got a squad capable of winning these games," Gatland said.
"If we can get out of the group stage then we are in good shape for the quarters and even the semis."