Wales skipper Dewi Lake ready for huge challenge against South Africa

Dewi Lake has vowed that Wales will not shy away from the challenge of what is mission improbable against world champions South Africa.

The Ospreys hooker captains his country at Twickenham on Saturday, with Wales having been written off as a distant 13-1 chance by most bookmakers.

They have lost their last six Tests, which included a Six Nations wooden spoon, while South Africa’s starting line-up has 343 caps more than Warren Gatland’s team.

There is an even starker contrast on the bench, where seven of Wales’ replacements have just eight caps between them.

It could potentially be a runaway victory for South Africa, whose matchday 23 includes 10 players that featured in the World Cup final last year, although it is also the Springboks’ first game since then.

“You get into Test match rugby and you want to play the best. We are happy with the challenge this weekend,” Lake said.

“We are all excited to play, to get on the field and to face off against the best in the world because that is what you want to set yourself against.

“That (physical challenge) is why I fell in love with the game. I was never very good at touch rugby or sevens.

“You know with the pack South Africa have got and what they are known for is dominance and coming at you. I am relishing the opportunity to go toe to toe with them.

“We want to be physical and we want to be in people’s faces and be in challenges. We are not going to shy away from that.”

Wales beat South Africa in Bloemfontein two years ago when Wayne Pivac was head coach, yet only Liam Williams and Gareth Thomas remain from that XV, which underlines the magnitude of their challenge.

Lake and company head to Australia next week for two games against the Wallabies and an appointment with Queensland Reds. Wales have not won a Test match since beating World Cup opponents Georgia last October.

Asked about losing becoming a habit, Lake added: “That is on us to change. It is not for me to speak on previous results – they are parked and in the past.

“It is what we do going forward, how do we change people’s perception of us and what do we want to look like as a group.

“It is about installing the winning habits and mindsets and believing in ourselves, because we can do it, and it is on us to show we can do it and put those results together.

Dejected Wales players showed their disappointment after finishing bottom in the 2024 Six Nations
Wales have lost their last six Tests and propped up the Six Nations table (David Davies/PA)

“We understand the challenge we face from South Africa, and we are not ignoring that, but sometimes when you look too much into an opposition and delve too deep you forget about yourself.

“We need to focus on what threats are we going to bring, and we know we are a threat as well. So a lot of the key messages for us as a group will be around that.

“Expect a massive territory battle against them (South Africa), but you know the way they want to play the game is dominance up front with their pack. So, that is what we have got to match.

“We have just got to be the aggressors.”