Warren Gatland admits it is crucial for Wales to redress the greatest disappointment of his reign in South Africa this summer, if they are to become serious contenders for next year’s World Cup.
Gatland is desperate for his side to feast on the fillip of a southern hemisphere scalp with just 15 months to go before the tournament in England.
Under the Kiwi, Wales have been agonisingly close. They have been within four points of Australia in each of the last four matches between the two nations, including losing by a point in Sydney in 2012 and lost to South Africa by a point in Wellington during the 2011 World Cup.
And now the Welsh coach wants his side to record their first victory against one of the heavyweights when they face the Springboks in two Tests this June.
“I will be honest and that is the disappointing thing that we have been knocking on the door – not so much with new Zealand because they have been the benchmark and the best team – but we have been close to South Africa and leading Australia in four or five games and have not been able to get across the line to finish it off,” Gatland told the Rugby Club.
“We have to go out there with the ambition to win out there and do well. If we come away from there having had a good series, I think that it will give us a lot of confidence going forward.
“For us the real process of building towards the World Cup has started now.”
Gatland was impressed with the form of fly-half Dan Biggar and No.8 Toby Faletau in the Wales trail match between the Probables and the Possibles last week.
And he was excited about the display of fly-half Matthew Morgan, enough to give the 22-year-old a place on the plane to South Africa.
However, he never entertained the idea of experimenting and resting players in one of the most intimating and demanding rugby nations in the world.
“It is the last place – South Africa – that you want to go to with a weakened side. You have to take the strongest side that you can,” he said.
But while Gatland is keenly aware that his side must front-up physically, he also insists they must be brave enough to out-think and out-run the Boks.
Gatland said: “When you go to South Africa you have got to compete with them physically because they are going to put out a big side against us. They are massive.
“We have got to match them physically but we have to go out and play rugby as well. We have got to keep the ball, we have to be smart in the way we keep it and smart in the way we play.”