x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Gatland is hoping to upset the Boks

The formbook would suggest Wales are in for a torrid time against South Africa tomorrow.

CARDIFF // The formbook would suggest Wales are in for a torrid time against South Africa tomorrow. The world champion Springboks have lost just once in 22 Tests against the Welsh and are bidding for a 10th straight victory over the principality tomorrow. But Wales coach Warren Gatland believes the Six Nations champions have never been in a better position to upset the Springboks at the Millennium Stadium.

"South Africa will be the favourites - that goes without saying when you're world champions," said Gatland. "But we are a side going places and we have the firepower to run them ragged." Gatland, who will celebrate a year in charge of Wales on Sunday, has been bold in his selections in the 12 months to date but still caused a surprise by naming 19-year-old Leigh Halfpenny as the man to mark World Cup star Bryan Habana.

Halfpenny has played just seven times for Cardiff Blues and last season was arguably only the Blues' seventh-choice wing option. However, Gatland is undeterred by the right wing's inexperience. "I'll tell him to go out there and express himself," said Gatland. Halfpenny admits he was shocked to get the call from Gatland. "I thought I was a few years off from a Wales call-up if at all," he said. "I honestly can't believe it and have to pinch myself half the time. I wake up each morning and think 'this is really happening'. It's all happened a lot quicker than I ever anticipated.

"But the initial excitement has gone and I've just got to focus on getting the job done." mmajendie@thenational.ae