Rugby World Cup 2011: Wales target Springboks scalp

Wales skipper Sam Warburton wants his side to shock reigning champions South Africa when their World Cup campaign begins in Wellington on Sunday, 11 September.

Warburton and coach Warren Gatland believe Wales can achieve that aim.

"It is the biggest game of the group and obviously we want to get a win against them," said flanker Warburton.

Gatland said: "I would like to think that people think we are not in bad shape going to this World Cup."

New Zealander Gatland named 22-year-old Warburton as captain of Wales' 30-man squad on Monday.

After South Africa, Wales face Samoa, Fiji and Namibia to determine whether or not they can improve on the 2007 showing in which they did not reach the knock-out stages.

On that occasion, Fiji put paid to Wales' hopes in Nantes and in 1991 the nation then named Western Samoa sent Wales crashing out of the tournament, beating the home side 16-13 at the old Arms Park.

But Warburton wasted no time in expressing his confidence they can make their mark in New Zealand and believes fitness could be one of Wales' strengths.

"We've come close in the past [to beating South Africa] and we hope we can go that one step further and beat them," he commented.

"Hopefully the fitness levels will be the same out in New Zealand.

"The southern hemisphere guys, obviously, will have experienced a high intensity in the Tri-Nations recently so they'll be pretty fit guys as well.

"But hopefully the fitness levels can have the same impact that they've had in the last few Tests and take us through.

"Getting out of the group is a minimum.

"If we didn't get out of the group it would be a massive disappointment and then I guess it depends on the draw and how it goes on the day from there.

"To make the knock-out stages would be great and hopefully we can get to the semis and depending on the opposition, who knows?"

Gatland is also upbeat in the wake of Wales' warm-up showing in which they lost 23-19 to England at Twickenham, won the Millennium Stadium return 19-9 and saw off Argentina 28-13 at the weekend.

"We want to win the group," he said.

"I think we are in great shape physically. We shouldn't go there with any fears.

"I really put the players under pressure the week of the second England game this month to beat England at home and to perform.

"In the past, sometimes they have shied away from that responsibility.

"You could see the heads go down, but they fronted up to what was a big challenge.

"And last weekend, we didn't play that well, but to beat Argentina comfortably was a sign there is something in this squad that is hopefully going to show something at the World Cup.

"It has been a really good August for us.

"The hardest thing about coaching an international side is limited preparation time, and the fact we have had these guys together for a couple of months has made a massive difference to us."

WALES 2011 RUGBY WORLD CUP SQUAD

Forwards: Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Adam Jones, Paul James (Ospreys), Ken Owens (Scarlets), Craig Mitchell (Exeter), Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton (Blues, capt), Luke Charteris, Danny Lydiate, Toby Faletau (Dragons), Ryan Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks).

Backs: Michael Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Aled Brew (Dragons), Shane Williams (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets).

Top Stories