Wales coach Warren Gatland has defended the country’s traditional fourth autumn Test, pointing to the financial and developmental benefits of the fixture.
It is a tradition not without its critics but, for all of the negatives, the additional fixture generates vital funds to help maintain the domestic game in Wales.
“I think it’s a balancing act,” Gatland said ahead of the clash with the Springboks. “The fourth international generates a lot of money and we’ve got to be aware of that.
“Part of the union’s responsibility is to help fund the regions and keep the regions going, contracts for players and the community game, so we’re aware of that.
“The other thing is the opportunity to play against the best teams in the world. We could have easily taken different options, but I’ve always been a strong believer that the only way you get better is by playing against the best players and the best teams and the players have got an opportunity to do that on Saturday.”
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Wales’ busy schedule has taken its toll, with Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Rhys Webb just some of the players ruled out for the weekend.
“It’s been hard,” continued Gatland. “I think we’ve had 11 injuries or something in this campaign and given that we made a complete change for the Georgia game to give everyone an opportunity, yeah it’s been tough from that perspective.
“I’m not sure of the reason because we haven’t done anything differently. We had a lot of players come in carrying niggles and knocks but we have unfortunately picked up quite a few injuries.
“I think from the original squad that we selected we’re down to about 25 of those players that we can select from. So we’re lucky enough that we’ve still got cover to be able to pick a squad, but it has been a bit of a challenge.”
One of the drawbacks of the fourth Test is the availability of Welsh players playing for English clubs, with only Bath’s Taulupe Faletau sticking around to face South Africa.
Asked why Faletau was allowed to stay and others left the squad, Gatland commented: “I’m not very clear on it either. All I know is that he’s told us he’s available for this game and the others aren’t available.
“I don’t know what agreements all the players have with the clubs and who’s been released. We’ve just asked who’s available for these games and Toby said he was available. So that’s why he’s been selected.”
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