An inexperienced Wales line-up contained a total of only 235 caps and the Springboks showed no mercy as they cruised to a record victory over their opponents in Cardiff.
It was the first time in either of Gatland’s reigns as head coach that Wales had conceded 50 or more points.
Centre Jesse Kriel and wing Canan Moodie each scored two tries, while hooker Malcolm Marx, flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and replacement Damian Willemse also touched down, with South Africa’s tally completed by a penalty try and five Manie Libbok conversions.
Wales managed three Sam Costelow penalties, a Sam Parry try and Cai Evans conversion in reply, yet they predictably had no answer to a South African side that will complete World Cup preparations by tackling fellow southern hemisphere heavyweights New Zealand at Twickenham next Friday.
For Wales’ players, though, the focus is on selection events on Monday and a World Cup opener against Fiji in Bordeaux on September 10.
South Africa were quickly into their stride and went ahead after just four minutes through an outstanding team try.
Patient build-up play saw them gradually make ground and when full-back Willie Le Roux went wide, he found captain Siya Kolisi in support whose pass sent Marx over in the corner.
Wales responded through a 35-metre Costelow penalty, but there were immediate signs of set-piece authority from South Africa as their scrum initially dominated through powerful work from props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.
A second Costelow penalty nudged Wales ahead, yet the lead lasted barely two minutes as South Africa created another impressive try.
Lock RG Snyman was the creator, surging clear in midfield before support from scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse and Marx carved open Wales’ defence and Le Roux’s long floated pass found Moodie, who finished impressively.
Costelow completed a penalty hat-trick 15 minutes before the interval, only for South Africa to stretch away with a 12-point burst inside two minutes.
There was a huge element of fortune about them being awarded a 34th-minute penalty try when Wales wing Rio Dyer was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball out of play from behind his own line under pressure from Moodie.
Le Roux’s chip into the corner was directed towards Moodie and batted away by Dyer. Referee Andrew Brace felt that Moodie had run past the ball, but after prolonged video review with television match official Joy Neville, Dyer was yellow carded and a penalty try awarded.
And before Wales could recover, South Africa struck again when centre Damian de Allende kicked deep into the opposition 22, home centre Mason Grady chased back, but under pressure from Springboks wing Cheslin Kolbe he threw the ball into the air behind his own line and Kriel touched down.
From being three points adrift and very much in contention, Wales trooped off 24-9 adrift at half-time and with a mountain to climb.
And any realistic hopes of a fightback were extinguished 12 minutes after the restart when South Africa claimed a breakaway try.
It looked promising for Wales deep inside South Africa’s 22, but scrum-half Kieran Hardy saw his pass intercepted by Du Toit and a supporting Kriel sprinted 60 metres to score, with Libbok converting.
Du Toit then got in on the scoring act, touching down from close range, before Moodie intercepted Wales centre Johnny Williams’ pass to claim try number seven.
Willemse then pounced before he received a yellow card for a high tackle on Dyer then Wales claimed a consolation try nine minutes from time through Parry.
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