South Africa 38 Wales 16: Warren Gatland rues Springboks’s physicality
South Africa 38 Wales 16: Warren Gatland admits his side didn't cope with the Springboks's physicality
Warren Gatland admitted Wales failed to cope with South Africa’s physicality as they lost the first Test 38-16 in Durban.
Two tries from Bryan Habana and one for number 8 Duane Vermeulen had the hosts 21-6 ahead in the opening 21 minutes before livewire Willie le Roux grabbed a fourth first-half try just before the break.
There were glimpses of promise from Wales in both attack and defence in the second half, including an 80-metre try for Cardiff Blues winger Alex Cuthbert but it was too little too late after former Blitzbokke winger Cornal Hendricks marked his first start with a try on his Test debut for South Africa’s fifth.
I thought we were very poor defending on the short side, le Roux was an absolute pest in that respect
“All credit to South Africa,” said Gatland. “I thought they physically dominated us in the first half and won the collisions. We just struggled a little with the pace and intensity.
“It probably didn’t help having Jamie Roberts in the bin—we conceded 14 points while he was off—but I think the game had gone away from us at half time.
“We said at the break that we needed to be much more aggressive off the line defensively and I think it was a much better performance in the second half. Hopefully it will be good for us for next week.”
Wales failed to take any of their chances in the first half despite a chance for Alex Cuthbert to break inside the opening minute and Gatland conceded that Wales have areas to work on ahead of the second Test next week in Nelspruit.
“We started really well and had a couple of good opportunities so to miss that chance was very disappointing, but that’s rugby,” he added.
“South Africa scrambled well and they had big runners off their scrum-half and they dominated the collisions and made it tough for us to get on the front foot. It is something we need to work really hard on this week.”
The Kiwi also singled out le Roux for praise for his hand in so many of South Africa’s tries.
“I thought we were very poor defending on the short side, le Roux was an absolute pest in that respect,” he said.
“He was outstanding and caused us a lot of trouble with chips over the top we did not handle, which is disappointing. On that performance you would have to say he is one of the best full-backs in the world. He was absolutely superb.”