SOUTH AFRICA (17) vs WALES (16)
WALES coach Warren Gatland has warned his demoralised charges they must not dwell on the pain of yesterday’s narrow defeat against South Africa if they are to resurrect their World Cup campaign.
The world champions narrowly averted disaster in Wellington, recovering from a six-point deficit with 15 minutes remaining to inflict a heart-wrenching defeat upon a Welsh side who, like Argentina against England 24 hours previously, had made a mockery of their underdog status.
Ultimately, however, Welsh qualification from a competitive Pool D is now likely to hinge on their ability to string together three consecutive wins against Samoa, Fiji and Namibia. And a proud Gatland has challenged his troops to demonstrate they are capable of bouncing back from adversity.
“For 70 minutes of that game we took it to South Africa,” said Gatland, who saw his team move within sight of a famous win when No8 Toby Faletau scored a second-half try that James Hook converted.
“We are proud of the performance and it is about getting back on the horse and thinking about Samoa.
“Good sides take disappointment on the chin and front up the following week. That is what we have got to do now. I couldn’t be more proud of the players’ effort in terms of what they delivered out there.”
The Springboks came into the tournament on the back of a flat Tri- Nations campaign that raised concerns about their ability to defend their world crown. A late match-winning try from substitute Francois Hougaard papered over the cracks yesterday, but a side already denied the services of experienced lock Bakkies Botha, looks a pale imitation of the one which cantered to victory in Paris four years ago. And their prospects of improving are likely to be severely hindered by the injuries sustained by centre Jean de Villiers and lineout specialist Victor Matfield.
“I am very worried about him,” said coach Peter de Villiers, of his midfield namesake.