Rob Howley: Wales to learn from New Zealand defeat

Wales assistant coach admits their cup is half-full as they prepare to face South Africa at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday

By Gareth Llewellyn

Rob Howley believes Wales will learn the lessons of defeat as they prepare to face South Africa on Saturday.

The Wales assistant coach saw a seven-minute blitz from world champions New Zealand condemn Warren Gatland’s side to another defeat against the southern hemisphere big three last weekend.

But despite the 34-16 scoreline, the former utility-back insists that it was one of Wales’ best performances.

“We always look forward. We will learn from the weekend against New Zealand and try to implement a strategy against South Africa,” Howley said.

“It was probably one of the best Test matches I have witnessed, although the result in the last 11 minutes went away from us.

“In terms of the attitude of both sets of players, the physicality, the skill-sets, it was probably one of the best Test matches in the last decade at the Millennium Stadium.

Our cup is always half-full. I don’t want to use the word revenge. This is another Test match.

Rob Howley

With the final match of their Castle Lager Outgoing Series falling outside the World Rugby international Test window, the Springboks will be without five players based in Europe and Japan, including wings Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, while the pack has been weakened by the loss of Schalk Burger and Gurthrö Steenkamp to their clubs, with Jannie du Plessis (hamstring) and Warren Whiteley (calf) ruled out.

But Howley concedes that South Africa are still strong without those absent players.

“They are still a world-class side, very physical,” he added.

“They have got world-class players, they have got a world-class driving lineout in [Victor] Matfield and [Eben] Etzebeth, and while they might be missing a couple of their back-row, the strength in depth they have is something we’ve all witnessed during the past 18 months, in particular.

“Our cup is always half-full. I don’t want to use the word revenge. This is another Test match. That Test match [in Nelspruit] has gone.”

Wales have already lost to Heyneke Meyer’s side, ending their summer tour in disappointing fashion as they blew a comfortable lead to lose 31-30 when Scarlets star Liam Williams’ illegal try-preventing tackle handed the Springboks a penalty try.

But Howley believes that the manner defeats to the southern hemisphere sides could play an important role ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup when Wales face England, Fiji and Australia.

“I honestly believe that what happened in Nelspruit would be huge going forward to Rugby World Cup,” Howley said.

“For the players and coaches involved for this Saturday, this is possibly what might happen in Rugby World Cup, where we’ve lost a game and now we are playing South Africa in the quarter-final.

“That is our motivation in terms of trying to put a script to it.

“It is important we front-up on the weekend, because this could be exactly the situation in September/October next year.”

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