Kings hold big benefits for Wales
Wales coach Warren Gatland says the potential benefits of Tuesday's encounter with EP Kings will reach far wider than the two-Test tour of SA.
Wales coach Warren Gatland says the potential benefits of Tuesday's encounter with Eastern Province Kings will reach far wider than the two-Test tour of South Africa.
Wales take on the newly promoted Currie Cup outfit at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, as they continue their preparations for the upcoming clashes with the Springboks in Durban (Saturday, June 14) and Nelspruit (June 21).
Tuesday's warm up will also be another vital learning curve ahead of next year's World Cup.
Wales will only have six days between their first and second games at the global gathering and less than five between games two and three as they look to build on their semifinal showing at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
Those short turnarounds, together with the intensity of a pool that also includes Australia and England, will be a tough test for the team and Gatland knows that developing strength in depth and acclimatising some players to playing twice in a week will be key to their chances of progression from Pool A.
"A big part of this tour and of wanting this game has been about planning and preparation for next year's World Cup - trying to cope with a short turnaround, picking (different) players and players having to back up," Gatland said in an interview on the Welsh website.
"If we can come through this and players can back up for the following week, we know that in 12 months' time when we go through the same exercise we will have had the same experience.
"That's why this is good for us mentally and physically as well. We're expecting a tough, physical encounter - I wouldn't expect anything else from a South African team."
Eastern Province Kings are all set for a Super Rugby spot in 2016 and are currently coached by former All Black playmaker Carlos Spencer.
They can boast a number of players with Super Rugby experience but Gatland admits that the challenge they pose is somewhat of an unknown given that they are in the middle of their own preparations for what will be a crucial two years in their progression towards the top of the southern hemisphere club game.
"This is a cross as to whether they are in Currie Cup mode or getting ready for Super Rugby, but we are looking forward to it," added Gatland. "Port Elizabeth is a lovely place and a good stadium and it will be a massive challenge.
"Just because we don't know a lot about them does not mean they will not be a typical South African side. But we need to start this tour on the front foot and we will be looking for a good performance ahead of that first Test.
"You might look at the team and say: 'You've rested a few players for the first Test'.
"We have done, but there's also an opportunity for players to push themselves forward for selection in the starting XV or the possibility of being on the bench.
"It's an important game for these players. They get the chance to get the tour off to a good start and to hopefully give us something to be positive about and then we can look forward to the first Test."
Source: Welsh media unit