‘Chalk and cheese’

2013-11-11 00:00

THE higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment, and the Welsh players and their supporters were in grim mood at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday night after they had been bullied, bruised and beaten 24-15 by the Springboks.

They had talked of emulating the British Lions but, in the end, it was the same old story for Wales, another frustrating outing against the Springboks, another chapter added to the long history of failure.

There had been genuine confidence in Wales, among the players, the supporters and the media. The Six Nations champions had 11 members of the triumphant 2013 British Lions in their ranks and were coached by Warren Gatland, who had masterminded the Wallabies’ downfall in June.

But, as Springbok captain Jean de Villiers warned on the eve of the Test, this was Wales and not the British Lions.

A glum Gatland was forced to concede that there was still a gap between northern and southern teams and that his team could not match the intensity of the South Africans.

He highlighted their tempo and speed of thought and said it was the result of their playing Super Rugby and in the Rugby Championship.

“The southern hemisphere sides have been together for a few months and you could feel they were organised. Our players are coming out of club rugby or regional rugby and the difference is chalk and cheese.”

He said that the loss to injury of threatening centre Jonathan Davies to a serious shoulder injury after 12 minutes had been a major setback

The Springboks lost their flyhalf Morné Steyn five minutes later, but coach Heyneke Meyer said he should be ready for the Test against Scotland on Sunday.

“Morné suffered a back muscle spasm during the warm-up, but we don’t think the injury is serious. I was very happy with both Pat Lambie at flyhalf and Willie le Roux, who was under pressure coming on at fullback.”

He said that the contest had been in the balance until the 64th minute when experience told and Fourie du Preez scored the Boks’ third try.

“Jaque [Fourie] and Fourie won the game with that last try. You can’t take away that magic and experience.”

Gatland, in turn, said that referee Alain Rolland should have referred the try to the television match official.

“We felt [correctly] that Fourie was in front of the kicker for the last try and maybe we could have asked the referee to go to the TMO. Rather than it being a try to them under the posts it would have been a penalty to us on halfway.

“Those are big moments.”

The Wales coach said that the playing surface had not helped the flow of the game.

“The scrums were a mess, but I think we can blame the surface of the ground for that. Both teams were slipping and the guys tell me it was impossible to get a foothold,” Gatland told reporters.

Rookie Bok tighthead prop Frans Malherbe agreed.

“The surface was very tricky. We couldn’t get steady, and neither could they. It was really frustrating and we took it in turns to go down and be penalised.”

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said that the contest had been as tough as they had expected.

“They have said all week that they would be ready to take us on, but we pride ourselves on our physicality and I think we won that battle.”

De Villiers also paid tribute to the experienced players in the team and Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Bryan Habana and Fourie du Preez were prominent in the victory.

The Springboks now move on to Edinburgh where they will play Scotland in a rare Sunday Test match.

They will then end their tour against France six days later and they know they will be in for one heck of a Test against a Les Bleus team who outplayed the All Blacks for long periods on Saturday night and came agonisingly close to snatching a draw.

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