Wales boss Warren Gatland believes their group draw will stand the team in good stead for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup 2011 should they make it through the pool stage.
Wales have been drawn alongside Webb Ellis Trophy holders South Africa, their 2007 World Cup conquerors Fiji and, in all probability, a dangerous Samoa.
The Samoans have yet to qualify, but they are red-hot favourites for the Oceania 1 berth, with Wales group' being completed by Africa 1 - probably Namibia.
Gatland, who took over as Wales head coach a year ago yesterday, has already guided his team to a RBS 6 Nations title and a leap of five places from 10th to fifth in the International Rugby Board world rankings.
Wales were also the solitary European team to defeat Tri-Nations opposition during a deflating autumn series, beating their possible 2011 World Cup quarter-final opponents Australia on Saturday.
Even in the games Wales lost - 20-15 to South Africa and 29-9 against New Zealand - they dominated 40 minutes of each Test match.
Gatland said: “It is a great draw and we are excited about it.
“Look at the World Cup last year - the winners of the competition came from the toughest pool.
“If we come out of it, then we are in pretty good shape for the quarter-finals as we will have played some tough rugby, as long as we don't pick up too many injuries.
Wales have never met South Africa in a World Cup fixture - but they know all about Fiji and Samoa.
Fiji knocked them out of last year's tournament, winning 38-34 in Nantes and ending Gareth Jenkins' miserable spell as Wales coach.
Samoa, meanwhile, can boast two World Cup wins against Wales - both in Cardiff - in 1991 and 1999.
Gatland added: “Fiji and Samoa will have a huge amount of support (in New Zealand) and the crowd will be really behind them.
“Hopefully, we will get a bit of support for South Africa, but we need it for the other two as well.
“We have played the three toughest teams in the world this autumn, and there is a significant amount of improvement to come from our game.
“We are trying to get some confidence against the southern hemisphere by winning a few games.
“The players can see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of where we are going.”
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers backed Wales to go from “strength to strength” under Gatland, with both de Villiers and skipper John Smit accepting South Africa found themselves in a demanding group.
“It is a tough draw and it will be a very physical pool, but I am happy with the draw,” said de Villiers.
“Wales will only go from strength to strength, and we know the Pacific Islands produce outstanding players - you only have to look back to last year's World Cup to know what a threat they can pose.”