Wales must overcome 'fear factor' against Springboks, says Gatland

rugby18 June 2024 15:43| © AFP
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Warren Gatland © Getty Images

Wales coach Warren Gatland said on Tuesday that his weakened team must overcome the "fear factor" when they face world champions South Africa at Twickenham this weekend.

Injuries and player unavailability have limited Gatland's choices for Saturday's clash in London, which comes ahead of a two-test tour to Australia.

The latest blow came with flanker Jac Morgan ruled out of the Springboks clash as well as next month's tests in Sydney and Melbourne.

Morgan, who was World Cup co-captain with Dewi Lake last year, missed this year's Six Nations because of a knee injury.

But he now has a hamstring problem that he suffered during Ospreys' United Rugby Championship quarterfinal defeat against Munster earlier this month.

The Welsh Rugby Union announced on Tuesday that Morgan has been released from the squad.

Wales, 10th in the world rankings, are without several England-based players including Nick Tompkins, Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell because the game falls outside World Rugby's test window.

And they have been badly hit in the second-row department, with Six Nations skipper Jenkins and his colleague at English Premiership club Exeter, Christ Tshiunza, both unavailable, Will Rowlands rested and Adam Beard injured.

South Africa are the "home" team on Saturday, with Twickenham their choice of venue, and Wales go into the game following six successive test defeats.

"We have our backs to the wall a little bit this week, but we are really excited about the challenge," said Gatland.

"I see it as a great opportunity for other players to step up and put their hands up."

The New Zealander said taking on the best teams in the world was the way to improve.

"Test match rugby is tough and physical – you have got to be able to handle adversity," he said. "You have to go through that pain sometimes and be able to come out the other side.

"There is nothing wrong with that. You have to be brave and overcome your fear factor.

"You are going out there and playing against big men, and it is going to hurt and you have to go through some pain."

Hooker Lake, who also sat out the Six Nations due to injury, will be captain against South Africa, with James Botham, grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham, lining up in a back-row that also includes Taine Plumtree and Aaron Wainwright.

Cardiff scrumhalf Ellis Bevan is handed a test debut, while Liam Williams makes a first Wales appearance since the 2023 World Cup.

There are three uncapped players on the bench – Ospreys forward James Ratti, Scarlets centre Eddie James and Cardiff back Jacob Beetham.