WALES coach Warren Gatland is the best in the world, according to his South African opposite number Peter de Villiers.
De Villiers, the first black coach of the Springboks, takes charge of South Africa for the first time against Wales in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The reigning world champions will go into the Test match as the hot favourites to continue their winning streak, but De Villiers — who succeeded Jake White in the Bok hot seat — is taking nothing for granted.
Springbok fans, still on a high after South Africa lifted the Webb Ellis trophy for a second time last October, are notoriously unforgiving when the team fails to deliver the goods, and De Villiers is well aware it is imperative South Africa start their 2008 campaign in winning fashion.
However, the new coach remains cautious.
“Wales will be a good team,” he said. “They did not win the Six Nations by watching the game. They know what they are doing. And in Warren Gatland they have the best coach in world rugby at present.
“Therefore, we have great respect for them. We’ll go out to do our best.”
Both teams will be without star performers owing to injuries, with the Boks particularly hard hit by the unavailability of flanker Schalk Burger, scrum-half Fourie du Preez and centre Jaque Fourie.
However, De Villi-ers still has the nucleus of the World Cup-winning squad available when he names his team today. He has already confirmed hooker John Smit will captain the team and in so doing will become the first man to lead the Boks on 50 occasions.
The Wales squad is shorn of hooker Huw Bennett, flanker Martyn Williams, number eight Alix Popham, scrum-halves Dwayne Peel and Mike Phillips, plus centre Gavin Henson and full-back Lee Byrne.
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