Wales face South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday (17 October) with assistant coach Rob Howley believing his side are ready for the two-time world champions. Wales booked their quarter-final berth after securing wins over Uruguay, Fiji and England before losing to Australia 15-6 last Saturday (10 October) in their final Pool A match.
Warren Gatland's side have suffered a raft of injuries during the tournament, with their back line particularly affected. Full-back Leigh Halfpenny and scrum-half Rhys Webb pulled out before the World Cup started and they have since lost winger Hallam Amos and centres Scott Williams and Cory Allen, as well as Liam Williams who plays at fullback or on the wing. Despite these setbacks, Howley says Wales are prepared for South Africa.
"We've come through the last weeks with really tough games against tier-one countries - you know Fiji, not to be underestimated, they were extremely physical and tough - and I think that that gives us a really good platform. We've been playing at an intensity for the last three weeks, week in and week out, and that will prepare us no end for what is going to come on Saturday against South Africa, because, as we know, they are a top side in world rugby," said Howley at yesterday's (13 October) news conference in Sunbury .
South Africa will be looking to continue the momentum gained after their shock opening defeat to Japan. Since that setback, the Springboks have beaten Samoa, Scotland and the USA, conceding just one try in the three games to win Group B and set up a meeting with Gatland's Welsh side. Howley said Saturday's match will be physical but Wales are looking forward to it.
"Having looked at South Africa over the last four or five weeks, I think that Japan loss refocused where they were at and in my experience and the players' experience, every time we played South Africa it's been a very physical, attritional and uncompromising game and it's going to be no different on Saturday," said Howley.
"The players have been absolutely fantastic. It's one week that we've got, it's knock-out football, it's a quarter-final to look forward to, and look, if you had said to us six or eight weeks ago, 'would you take a quarter-final against South Africa?', yeah, of course we would. And it's something we are looking forward to from a coaching perspective and a playing perspective."